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Seasons

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“Tobs! Alex! Let’s go!”

 

Tobin lets her phone slide out of her hand, onto her chest, and then into the messed up sheets of her temporary bed. With a quick glance to the left and seeing that there’s still no movement of the door that’s been firmly locked for a solid forty-five minutes, she pushes herself up with the palms of her hands to pad towards the other door just past the first one. Flipping the safety lock open and twisting the handle directly below, the door pops open to reveal a smirking blonde staring right at her.

 

“We said eight Harry,” the blonde sighs with a cursory glance to the phone in her hand, which Tobin isn’t completely sure is solely a time check or if it’s also a sly move at checking her texts once more before they leave for their destination.

 

“I-” She stammers before being cut off again.

 

“It’s 8:12.”

 

“I was ready,” Tobin glances down her body, clothed in a tee, leggings with a flannel thrown on top to combat the potentially chilly California winter morning. As always, her best friend has the perfect dusting of just the right amount of makeup for the general public to think she was a normal human being with a normal job but not enough to make her look like an idiot when she stepped on the pitch in a couple hours. It puts her own light coat of mascara to shame but really she couldn’t be bothered with foundation and bronzer and whatever else if she was going to just sweat it off in a matter of hours, “Have been for twenty minutes, Alex is still in the bathroom.”

 

“Classic,” She nudges her way past Tobin, knocking on the door firmly, “Three minutes or we’re leaving without you! I’m not drinking that poop water they’re trying to pass as coffee in the lobby again. And I’m taking Tobin with me!”

 

Tobin rolls her eyes as she chuckles at her friend’s seriousness, the differences in their personalities are stark. She couldn’t care less what time they got their coffee, so long as it was in her system thirty minutes before their 10 am practice.

 

“Calm down drama queen, I’m ready,” Alex steps out of the bathroom, a matching perfect face full of natural makeup adorning her skin and a thick sweater paired with black jeans and a pair of heeled, toeless booties covering her body. That was about as casual as Alex got when leaving the house, or rather hotel in this case. Allie has already turned her attention to her phone, her nails making that tapping sound against the glass of her phone as she typed her response. As Alex grabs her purse, she puts on her best ‘Allie being a bossy bitch’ imitation voice and mimicking what she just said less than a minute ago, “Let’s go! It’s 8:12!”

 

Tobin is halfway out the door, her hip popped holding it open as she waits for the two to follow her through.

 

-

 

It’s Allie who navigates their way to the coffee shop, glancing up from her phone every few seconds to let them know how many more blocks they had left. Upon stepping in front of Intelligentsia Tobin can understand exactly why Allie had wanted to come here rather than the coffee shop around the corner from the hotel. There’s a line far outside the building and no tables open to sit it. The industrial decor exudes and basically screams hipster, but is exactly the model of something the trio would probably visit in Portland without a second thought, well rather just her and Allie now.

 

“Tobin,” Alex mutters under her breath, pointing subtly at a table of people picking up their backpacks and Hydroflasks in preparation of their departure, “Go grab that table for us.”

 

Tobin’s eyes wander in the direction she’s pointing, there’s a two person table open but one side is lined along a bench so they can easily fit the three of them in the spot, “Okay, I wa-”

 

“I’ll get you a macchiato,” She states harshly, it’s pretty busy though so Tobin gets the hint to move briskly to grab the table. Alex and Allie hold their spot in line, and Alex sends Tobin a wink as she approaches the couple leaving.

 

“Hi, do you mind if I grab this table when you leave?” She flashes a bright smile, tucking some hair behind her ear.

 

“Of course not,” A man in a suit, but like LA style, with tight pants, a skinny tie with a well fitted shirt harnesses his leather backpack over his shoulders, “It’s all yours.”

 

“Thanks,” She slides into her spot, patting her pocket in search of her own phone as she settles down but comes up empty. She glances back in Allie and Alex’s direction, but they’ve moved inside now and are approaching the baristas in the center of the shop as she remembers how she allowed her phone to slide onto her unmade bed before they left. With a sigh, Tobin accepts that she’s probably going to have to sit in her spot without her phone or her journal or really anything that could have occupied her mind for a couple minutes, until a tote is dropped on the seat across from her.

 

“Um, Hi, I’m really sorry to bother you but-” Tobin plasters on a smile as these few words slip out of the mouth of a woman with dark brown hair tied into a bun at the nape of her neck, ready to respond with a polite ‘yes of course, really quick since I’m with my friends’ but the woman finishes with a string of words she wasn’t expecting to hear, “I’ve never really done this before but I noticed you from inside while I was waiting for my coffee. But you’ve got one of the best smiles I’ve ever seen and, uh, if you’re interested I’d love to take you out for a drink or something.”

 

Tobin falters a bit, with the way her sentence started she was expecting to be asked for a picture or an autograph or something, but wasn’t expecting the second half of the statement that came from her mouth.

 

“I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to spring this on you and I’m already late but, I uh, wrote down my number in case you were interested,” The girl slips a torn corner of a piece of paper onto the table, and Tobin places one finger on top of it. She bites her lip as the girl rambles on, “If not, that’s cool too. Just thought it was worth a shot.”

 

Before she manages to sling her bag back on her shoulder and escape, Tobin has a moment to regroup and takes a cursory glance over the woman. She’s wearing nike sneakers (brownie points for that she thinks) and a loose gray short sleeved shirt with one of those crazy Lululemon sports bras poking out that Tobin isn’t entirely convinced actually do their job and are actually just a staple for people trying to look casually cute on their errands, “Thanks, and I’ll think about it.”

 

Tobin thinks she sees the girl's shoulders relax a little out of relief at her response, “Okay, great, shoot me a text or something.”

 

Her smile widens a little more at the nervous girl and nods once more before she leaves.

 

“Again, sorry to bother you, and also sorry for rushing away but I really am late,” The woman glances down at her watch, a real life watch, not an apple watch even.

 

“No problem,” The woman grabs her bag once more hoisting it above her shoulder, and with a small wave she exists through the brick arch entrance, disappearing almost as quickly as she arrived.

 

Before Tobin is able to ask for her name or offer her own, the woman is gone. She slides the folded piece of paper closer to her, opening it up, she sees ten digits scribbled down and a string of letters forming a name: Christen.

 

Tobin’s eyes wander back to the inside of the coffeeshop where Alex and Allie are staring out at her with confused expressions on their faces. Allie holds up her hands like she’s holding a camera and making a clicking motion with her fingers, silently asking if the girl wanted a picture and if she did, if Tobin turned her down. She shakes her head no in response before the two girls shrug their shoulders and turn around at the sound of their names being called to pick up their coffees.

 

-

 

As Christen rounds the corner after leaving the coffee shop and walking in the direction of her studio she mutters “oh. my. god.” softly under her breath, before repeating a little louder to herself as she can feel herself distorting her face “OH. my GOD.”

 

Before she can garner any attention to herself from people passing by, she begins chastising herself in her head instead. She needs to align herself into a normal human being in the seven minutes it will take her to walk to the studio.

 

Did I really just start that conversation with stating that I’ve never asked someone out before? Wait what if she interpreted it in that I’ve never been interested in a girl before? Shoot me a text? If not that’s cool? Is she a middle aged middle class working woman with an office job or a 13 year old girl trying to pretend that rejection doesn’t affect her? How many times did I apologize for asking her out?

 

That’s it, her internal monologue states to herself. Deciding that it’s not worth her dwelling and that if the girl decides not to text her that she’ll never even see her again so it doesn’t matter. No harm, no foul. She’s smart, she’s strong, and she’s successful. Her blabbering mouth and a woman she doesn’t even know will not affect the rest of her day. She will pull herself together and help her staff set up for the first class of the day and then she will spin her heart out before her string of meetings and interviews lined up for the rest of the day. Oh, but she will remember to make a note to herself in her planner to never make the first move ever again.

 

-

 

“What was that about?” Allie’s voice is raised, yet again, as she slides two cups of coffee onto the table as she plops into the seat across from her and Alex slides onto the bench next to her, nodding in agreement.

 

“I-” Tobin is still a little confused, a little shocked, and a little flushed over the compliment that the girl had aimed in her direction, “I don’t really know, I think she just asked me out.”

 

“What do you mean you think she asked you out?” The pitch in Alex’s voice rises slightly in excitement at the prospect of what she understands just happened, “Tobin, you’re twenty-seven, you should be able to tell if someone asked you out or not.”

 

“Well, I mean, I guess she just did,” Tobin shrugs her shoulders, “She was kind of in a rush and seemed a little flustered, seemed nice though. She complimented my smile.”

 

Sometimes Tobin thinks that Allie and Alex don’t know that she can see the way they smirk at each other when talking about Tobin’s personal life, but just because she doesn’t necessarily have something to contribute to the situation or she’s not sure of what’s going on in her own life all the time doesn’t mean that she’s oblivious, “Did you say yes?”

 

“First of all, stop it with that dumb look you guys do, I can see it” She finds yet another sigh escaping her lips as she slumps down into the bench slightly, “Al, why would I go on a date with a girl that lives in LA?”

 

“Tobin-” and “Harry-” come out of each of her friend’s mouths simultaneously, but Allie nods to Alex like maybe it’s something she can take control of because Alex is gentler. Sometimes.

 

“Tobin,” Alex lets her head drop onto her neighbor’s shoulder, “I just don’t think it would hurt for you to go out on a date. Just one date, it doesn’t have to mean anything, doesn’t have to go anywhere, nothing has to amount from it. Maybe it’s just time for you to open a new chapter, you know? Get ready for 2016? Start a new page? It’s been a couple of months Tobs, I don’t think it would hurt to just go on a date with someone you don’t even know.”

 

There it is, that part of herself that she tries to hide, tries to pretend that she’s okay and not lonely and fine with being single again. It’s that thing that if you would have asked herself about three years ago she would have been fine with but modern day, not so much. The part that she tries to cover up with a World Cup victory and all her successes in soccer and everything good that’s happening in her life that she has always wanted but this thing just seems to sit nagging in the back of her brain. There’s that part of Tobin that’s annoyed with her two best friends who’ve started trying to nudge her back into the ‘dating scene’ for about a month now even though neither of them have had to break off a relationship in a really really long time and get back into the dating scene themselves, if ever. It’s a lot easier said than done, and to be honest Tobin is just trying to adjust to a slower paced life still much less trying to start a fresh in the dating world. When she had to officially leave France to move back on US Soccer’s demands if she wanted to make the World Cup team, her time originally had been occupied with her season with the Thorns and then her life got turned upside down after the World Cup but she was still making all those trips back and forth whenever she got the time, until it ended. It was now that she was learning how to slow down, adjusting to having her own apartment and not having a team to play for in the seasonal limbo that left her with much more time to herself than she’d ever had before. It was strange, the lifestyle of squeezing in visits to her parents and her three siblings and her best friends between visiting her girlfriend in Paris had kept her on her toes but now it didn’t seem to suit her as much. Now that the whole girlfriend thing was out of the picture, she couldn’t extend her visits longer by much to any of the other people without making them concerned about her or getting too invasive about the life changes she’d had so she was spending more and more time in Portland which had never happened to her before.

 

Playing with the handle of her mug, she bites her lip. It has been three months to be fair. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to just put herself out there. She didn’t have much to lose at this point and nothing needed to happen. “I think I’ll say yes, nothing to lose right?”

 

Allie smiles at this, “That’s my girl! She was cute too.” She adds a wink onto the end of her statement.

 

“She was, wasn’t she?” Tobin’s cheeks flush a little at that, for as much as they’d talked about her last relationship they’d never really talked much about girls in general since she had pretty much jumped straight into a relationship after her big revelation to her friends. But, she’s thankful that they try and be supportive.

 

“Well,” Allie holds out her hand across the table, “Hand me your phone so we can figure out what to text her, her confidence levels did not look that high when she left so I’m thinking we need to let her know ASAP before she considers you a lost cause.”

 

Tobin smirks herself this time, “Sorry, left it in the hotel room.” Now she’s feeling significantly less frustrated with herself and almost a little pleased that she’ll have some time to figure out what she wants to say for herself.

 

Allie’s head shakes back and forth, “Harry, Harry, Harry, what a lost cause.”

 

-

 

Christen puts her hands on the top of her head as she lets her legs start slowing down at the end of her class. Her instructor turns the volume down on the music and promptly starts talking in a hushed tone, asking everyone to turn their mindsets from the intense class to prepare for their cool down. Tucking her feet outwards until she hears the click of her shoes, she jumps off her bike while everyone is still supposed to have their eyes closed and hurries towards the front, grabbing baskets for the sweaty towels to be disposed of on their way out. Considering she does these classes at least once a day, she almost never does the cool down in favor of helping out with some of the dirty work.

 

She pats her much larger companion on the back, Andy is a crowd favorite with a near cult following at the popular studio. He’s just giving a last meditation mantra and thanking the class for coming out today and asking for any regulars with song suggestions to come up and find him after they exit the room. Christen feels refreshed after the sessions like always, she’s always found solace in spin classes, potentially the only time she’s able to set her mind free and focus on herself for a moment.

 

The regulars take their time leaving, thanking every member of the staff in the building from herself to her instructors to the women who run the front desk and do bike maintenance. There’s a group of sorority girls today and they’re taking their sweet time leaving, not that she minds, and she offers to take a group photo of them out front, reminding them to tag their pictures on instagram and telling them to come back again.

 

She never expected her studio to grow as much as it did. When she finished college and opened their first location near her home town she never expected it to bud like it did but she couldn’t be more grateful for it. As she steps back inside one of her receptionists smile up at her, “You got a few texts but they were from an unknown number so I didn’t think it was that urgent to grab you after class.”

 

“Thanks,” Christen grabs the phone that was held across the counter to her. Glancing down at the screen she sees three texts from an unknown number, and not even a California area code that she can recognize, which she was relatively good at doing considering she’s lived in LA her whole life besides her four years at Stanford. She always leaves her cell at the front desk in case of an emergency from one of her other instructors happened while she was in class but quickly learned to change the setting on her texts so that the whole text message wasn’t displayed for everyone to see. As she slides it open, she glances at the texts and was suddenly reminded of the blubbering mess of a trainwreck she was this morning.

 

Hey Christen? This is Tobin, you gave me your number this morning?

 

I just wanted to let you know that I’m not actually from around here but I’m in the area for work until the 20th and if you’re still willing I’d love to take you up on that offer you made this morning. I’m not exactly allowed to drink while I’m out here for work but if you’re willing to make those drinks coffee I would not be opposed.

 

And if not, that’s cool too.

 

Christen cringes at the last text that was probably teasing her for that statement she made at the shop this morning, each of the texts were sent a couple of minutes apart, seemingly waiting for a response so she hopes that - Tobin - didn’t think she was ignoring her or that she had the wrong number. To be fair, it was the middle of the work day.

 

She takes a moment to process the texts, she wasn’t really sure what she was expecting when she asked the other woman out this morning, just that she would have been kicking herself if she didn’t go for it. So no, she wasn’t expecting that the woman was not from the area but to be fair the coffee shop she had been at that morning was a bit touristy so she’s not necessarily surprised. Would it really hurt though? She’s never really been on a date with someone that she didn’t know anything about. Maybe it would be fun, maybe it would be awkward. Either way, she was the one that extended the offer so she should follow through. She hadn’t worked herself up for nothing, had she?

 

Coffee sounds great! My mornings are pretty busy but I’m free in the afternoons and evenings usually :)

 

-

 

And that’s the story of how two days later Tobin finds herself after their afternoon field practice, standing in front of her suitcase, hands on hips, trying to decide what to wear.

 

Her black skinny jeans are a given, as well as the one pair of shoes she brought that weren’t sneakers, flip flops, or cleats. Her hair is wrapped on the top of her head in a towel and she’s half dressed in her nude bra and said black jeans. She’s got her black leather jacket laying on the bed but all of her shirts that she brought with for the three weeks she was going to be gone were much too casual in her opinion, even though she was just going on a coffee date she wanted to look like a slightly more put together version of her usual self. The door clicks open and she silently thanks Alex in her head.

 

“Do you have a shirt I can wear?” Tobin can almost hear the smile growing on Alex’s face after she had asked incessantly if Tobin needed any help getting ready. She received a firm no every single time.

 

“Thought you’d never ask,” Alex slides open the closet door, “What do you want? Neutral? Black, white, or gray?”

 

“I don’t really care at this point Al, I just need to finish getting ready ASAP,” Tobin knows that the last time she checked the time she had about 30 minutes before she should leave for the coffee shop.

 

“Don’t laugh at me,” Alex starts, she seems to have paused over something but is unsure as she bites at her lip, “This is a serious suggestion.”

 

“What is it Al?”

 

Alex pulls out a grey top, it’s definitely a bit cropped but not too much, “I think this would look good.”

 

Tobin holds out her hand, it’s really not very her. As she slides the top over her head, she decides it doesn’t look like she anticipated to it. It is high necked and the crop only reveals about a half inch of skin, which she makes the executive decision is not too much for a first date especially if Alex doesn’t think it is, “What do you think?”

 

“I think you look hot,” Alex shrugs, “Wait, one more thing!”

 

Tobin halts her movement back to the bathroom, her light coating of foundation and tiny bit of bronzer is already applied along with her eyeliner and mascara but she still needs to dry her hair. Expecting some sort of accessory, Tobin is pretty surprised when she feels Alex stick her curling wand in her hand, “Al, I don’t have time to curl my hair. I can barely do it when I have time.”

 

“Just take really large chunks and wrap it around, it’ll take three minutes and since your hair is clean it’ll fall out really loose,” Alex stares at her with wide eyes, “I promise, it’ll look good.”

 

“Fine, but if I’m late I’m putting all the blame on you!”

 

-

 

Christen has her bottom lip tucked under teeth, all her focus on the laptop in front of her when a hand softly lands on her table, “Uh, Christen right?”

 

Her eyes pop open as she looks up, Tobin staring right at her, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t get your text, sorry!”

 

“No, I, uh,” Tobin squints down at her laptop, “You weren’t waiting for me, were you? I didn’t think I was that late.” Tobin glances down at her phone, she was only about seven minutes after the time they agreed to meet which Tobin didn’t think was long enough to warrant her date to pull out her laptop to squeeze some work in, “Sorry, I didn’t send you a text when I got here, I just saw you sitting down already so I thought-”

 

“No, no, no, don’t worry about it,” Christen slams her laptop shut and slides it back into the tote that had her workout clothes from the morning that she changed out of for the business (and date) portion of her day, “I decided to come down here early and get some work done before you came, I wasn’t being very productive at home.”

 

“Oh, good, I thought we maybe had some sort of time mix up,” Tobin tries to relax her body, and offers a smile at the other woman as she stands up from her perch. Christen smiles back at her, it’s soft and warm, comfortable Tobin thinks. She hadn’t seen her smile before, presumably hidden by her bundle of nerves when she originally asked Tobin out.

 

“It’s nice to meet you, like properly,” Christen offers her arms out for a hug, silently giving herself a pep talk internally. Tobin accepts, enjoying the brief embrace despite Christen’s bag hanging off her shoulder that forced them into some sort of weird side hug. She doesn’t mind though, she knows from the multitude of personality strengths tests she’s taken on behalf of team bonding exercises that physical touch is one of her top love languages, “I’d love to buy you a coffee, or tea, whatever you drink?”

 

Tobin nods as she leads the way to the line, they talk lightly about their days and coffee preferences while they wait for their orders to be ready but once they sit down in a booth, Christen turns to her, “So, what brings you to LA for a couple weeks?”

 

And this is the point where things start to change for Tobin. She thinks of how odd this situation is but about how friendly Christen is. She thinks about the fact that this is perhaps the first person she’s talked to in a very, very long time that didn’t know exactly who she is or what she does. Potentially she thinks that this may be the first date she’s been on that she doesn’t have that one factor that she’s had in common with all of the previous: soccer.

 

For a moment she wonders how she got here, what she’s doing, why she’s in a coffee shop with a complete stranger that she doesn’t know anything about other than her first name and her phone number.

 

“Well, I’ve got a bit of an unusual job,” Christen nods her head at her, sipping on her tea (Tobin should have pinned that from the start) with her attention just focused on Tobin at the moment, “I’ll just be honest I guess, I’m a professional soccer player. We just finished playing a game in the Bay Area, we’re here until the 19th and on the 20th we drive down to San Diego for a game and then we’re off for the holidays.”

 

“Oh, uh,” Tobin can see Christen’s forehead scrunch together, clearly trying to make the decision of what to say next, “What team do you play for?”

But Tobin can tell that the question she wants to ask is not really about which team she plays for but there is a more puzzled questioning look on her face that shows she’s not exactly sure what the right follow up question is.

 

“Well, I guess that’s a little complicated,” She tries to break down the situation, “I’m here playing with the national team, but I also play for a club team in Portland.”

 

Christen seems intrigued by this new development about Tobin’s life, and Tobin is expecting her to dive further into this side of her. She can almost predict the next question, the follow up question she always gets, “So, you’re really good then?”

 

But Christen doesn’t ask that, “You must really love it then, don’t you?”

 

Tobin’s head cocks to the side, and she nods, looking into Christen’s eyes. She can’t tell if they’re gray or green, “Yeah, I do.”

 

“I can tell by the way you smile, even just mentioning it,” There she goes again Tobin thinks, talking about her smile, “It’s cute.”

 

“I-” Tobin has always been one of those people that doesn’t know how to respond to compliments but instead of fumbling over her words she decides to stick with a traditional, “Thanks.”

 

“So are you from Portland then?”

 

“No, Jersey actually,” There she goes again, making that cute scrunchy confused face.

 

“Not going to lie, wasn’t expecting that,” Tobin laughs with her.

 

“You’re not the first person that’s told me that,” Tobin relaxes a little, settling into her seat, telling herself that this is not as weird as she expected it to be and isn’t as foreign as she anticipated, but that she still knows next to nothing about the girl in front of her, “But what about you? I guess I don’t really know anything besides your first name, what do you do and where are you from?”

 

“I’m from here,” Christen slightly nods her head towards the door, “Not literally, not like Venice but a bit south from here, and I own a spin studio? Company? I guess I never really know what to call it, but just basically a place where we offer really fun, motivating, spin classes. I mean, at least in my opinion they’re fun and motivating.”

 

Tobin wonders if the happiness that Christen saw in her smile was the same as the light she saw in Christens eyes mentioning her studio, “And you really like that?”

 

“Yeah, I mean, the studio kind of feels like my baby. We’ve come a long ways since we opened but I love it. I still love spin classes, I love my staff, I love our customers, it’s just a really great atmosphere to be in,” Tobin sees her do that dumb self conscious lip bite thing again, “Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to sound like a pitch to get you to come to my classes or anything.”

 

“No, it’s fine, it didn’t come off like that at all,” Tobin smiles at her in an encouraging way, “I’d love to hear more about it.”

 

“Only if you tell me more about your soccer thing,” Christen winks across the table at her, “I’m not going to lie, I know absolutely nothing about soccer.”

 

-

 

Tobin is not entirely sure how long it’s been since she and Christen sat down to start their coffee when she’s brought out of their little bubble by one of the employee's starting to flip chairs onto the tops of tables.

 

“Sorry, I just need to check what time it is,” Tobin reaches into her back pocket to grab her phone, “I have a team meeting at nine so I need-” but before Tobin finishes, she cuts her own statement off, “Crap it’s 8:35, I should really go.”

 

“I could give you a ride if you need one, your hotel isn’t far from here, I could definitely get you back in time?”

 

“I drove myself,” Tobin dangles the team rental car keys from her hands, “I hate to cut this off so suddenly, I completely lost track of time.”

 

“No offense, but” Christen lets out a giggle this time instead of biting her lip, “I wasn’t exactly expecting to be out so late either.” They had agreed to meet at 5:30, with Tobin’s 7 minutes of tardiness, that means they’ve been there for approximately two hours and 58 minutes, “But I’ve had a really great time.”

 

“Me too,” Tobin is shuffling as slowly as she can will her body to towards the door, “I’m really glad I decided to come.”

 

“So am I,” Christen holds her arms wide for a hug, and is pleasantly surprised to feel Tobin’s hand rub up and down her back while they hold the embrace.

 

“It was nice to meet you Christen.”

 

“You too Tobin,” She smiles, hoping that the other girl can see it through the darkness of the December night, “Thanks for coming out.”

 

“No, thank you for the coffee,” Christen can feel Tobin squeeze her hand, “I’m sorry, but I really have to go.”

 

“Of course, I don’t want you to be late.”

 

And it’s then, with one glance back, that Tobin turns in the direction of her parked team car with one final smile back at the girl with the dark curly hair.

 

-

 

Just as Christen is unlocking her car doors, trying to process the events of the night, she can hear the soft clicking of chunky heels running on pavement.

 

“Christen!” She turns her head, wondering if she forgot anything back at the coffee shop but insteads sees Tobin slowing down her jog in her direction.

 

“Sorry, I just thought that since you asked me out, maybe I should be the one to do this,” And it’s sudden.

 

The hands gripping her hips. The tilt of her head. The flutter of eyelashes on her cheek. The dry lips covered in chapstick. The taste of coffee on her lips.

 

It’s just when Christen gets her arms around Tobin’s neck that Tobin pulls back from the short kiss to turn back, “I’m sorry, but I really have to go this time.”

 

Tobin’s hands fall from her waist, where she was using them to pull her in closer in a kiss that was just slightly too long to be considered a peck.

 

“I owe you,” Tobin says as the backs away from her, “Dinner or something on me before I leave?”

 

“Sure.” Christen is quite stunned to be honest.

 

“Great, I’ll text you,” Tobin’s voice is getting louder as she backs farther and farther away from her, “And we have really got to stop apologizing to each other after everything we say!”

 

“I can’t help it if worrying is in my nature!” Christen shouts back teasingly, a smile crossing her face.

 

“I’ll see you soon Christen!”

 

And those are the actual last words that Christen hears from Tobin’s mouth, at least for that night.

 

-

 

Tobin slides into the back row of seats at their team meeting, falling into whatever open seat was closest to her at 8:58. Just in time she thinks.

 

Whit is to her left, chatting with Lindsey softly about her move back to the states when she turns her head to the left, a soft smile gracing her lips, “You look nice.”

 

“Oh, thanks,” Tobin looks down, she’d had just enough time to change out of her outfit into something more comfortable but not enough to wash the makeup off her face. She sees Alex and Allie a few rows up, and they glance back at her, Kelley pulled into their conversation and joining the questioning look she’s been given.

 

When the coaching staff calls for attention, she sees Allie pull out her phone and she quickly types something before flipping it upside down onto her lap. At almost the exact same moment, Tobin’s phone buzzes in her pocket.

 

Jeez Harry, we didn’t think you’d sleep with her.

 

Tobin rolls her eyes, responding in their group message.

 

I didn’t sleep with her.

 

Alex just responds with: we’ll talk later

 

-

 

And so Tobin finds herself sitting outside under a heat lamp at a cantina eating potentially the cheapest taco’s she’s ever bought in her life, but also potentially the best tacos she’s ever had in her life.

 

Christen is wearing a gray wrap dress that hugs her curves but has a sweater pulled around her body to keep her warm, the sun had set since their arrival at the restaurant and it took the warm weather with it.

 

The more time Tobin spends with Christen, listening to the way she talks about her life, her background, her upbringing and the more time she spends looking at her face, in her eyes, at her hair, at the way she bites her lip nervously, the more she becomes more and more comfortable and relaxed in a way that she’s not sure she’s felt potentially since she lost that that first World Cup four and a half years ago.

 

Maybe she should do this more she thinks, maybe she should find ways to surround herself with people whose lives don’t revolve around soccer and World Cups and championships and competition.

 

Because sitting here with Christen is a fresh start. Christen doesn’t know the start of how hard she’s worked her whole life to be the best of the best at her sport, she doesn’t know that she won a gold medal before she even graduated college, she doesn’t know how close she’d been to being named the best team in the world, how she could taste the victory until her shot was saved, she didn’t know about how she went to France with the intent of winning the Champions League and was forced to leave early without the title she wanted and the person who brought her more comfort than she’d felt in a while, and she certainly doesn’t know how she feels about the fact that all her friends are moving or retiring or taking breaks to be with their husbands and start families while she’d been forced to move with no one to follow her.

 

Instead Christen knows that soccer makes her happy more than it makes her sad, she knows about how her younger brother is about to graduate college and about how much she loves her nephew and how Perry is the one that takes her in and brings her on adventures when she’s feeling down. Christen knows about how much she loves the ocean and New York and Rhode Island, and she knows that Tobin isn’t necessarily that stoked about the fact that slowly but surely her family is uprooting and moving south. Christen knows that Tobin’s mom is her real best friend and that her relationship with her dad is slowly but surely improving but will probably never be the same as it was before her parents got divorced.

 

It makes her wonder what she doesn’t know about Christen. Tobin knows that Christen loves her family, that her sisters are her best friends and that her parents are really cool people. She knows that Christen loves LA, loves the sun, loves the beach, but doesn’t necessarily love the pace of life. She’s wary of business endeavors and wants to keep control of her business. Tobin knows that Christen is smart, like really smart, and not just because she went to Stanford. She knows that Christen puts her all into her work, and even though she’s the owner, she still tries to stay involved in the day to day operation of her company, that she still helps with laundering the sweaty towels and cleaning the rental shoes and mopping the floors, and all the other dirty work that she could just let her staff members do. Tobin knows that the demand at Christen’s studio is too high and that she has three locations open by popular demand and that she should continue to expand but she’s wary that the more they expand the less she’ll be able to be involved in day to day operation of her business which is part of what she likes the most. She knows that Christen hates dealing with businessmen and investors, even though that’s the basis of what she studied in college.

 

So Tobin thinks she’ll take the time to enjoy herself while this lasts, that she’ll take advantage of this situation while she’s here because maybe she just needs to talk to someone who doesn’t know about the things she’s most proud of but also the things that affect her the most.

 

And maybe, just maybe, she needs to allow her mind to drift off into nothing but the feeling of Christen’s soft hands on her neck and her soft lips on her mouth and the smell of vanilla on her neck as she nips softly into the curly haired woman’s skin in her parked BMW at the back of an empty parking lot.

 

-

 

Tobin’s time is ticking, it’s the eve of her last day off and she’s about to sneak out to see Christen presumably for the final time before she leaves LA. They’ve got a day off tomorrow, then a full day consisting of a morning gym workout, field practice, and strategy meetings the next day, and then the day after that they leave for San Diego and she’s gone for the holidays.

 

Allie and Alex haven’t talked to her much after Tobin’s debrief of their first date. Well, she should rephrase that, they have talked, just mostly about planning Allie’s upcoming wedding and about bridesmaids dresses for the two of them. They don’t know that she’s seen Christen again and they don’t know that she’s going to see her one last time tonight. She thinks that they probably think she’s been leaving to go see Amy or something or just hanging out with other people on the team when she abandons them.

 

Alex is out of their room, off to spend the night at her parent’s house by the time Tobin leaves for her date with Christen.

 

She pulls up in front of the hotel, Tobin hadn’t been able to get one of the team’s rental cars so Christen offered to pick her up before taking her out. Christen is smiling through the window and Tobin reaches to open the door and slides into the passenger seat.

 

“Hey,” Tobin mutters before going full force forwards, fully intending on placing a quick peck to her lips but getting a little caught up, and before she knows it her tongue is in Christen’s mouth and she’s pulling back more breathless than she cares to admit.

 

“Hey,” Christen giggles back once Tobin reclines and slumps into her seat, after she shifts the car from park to drive she drops her hand onto Tobin’s thigh, giving it a slight squeeze before bringing it back to the wheel as she pulls out of the parking lot, “How was your day?”

 

Tobin groans a little, “We had a double day, so I’ve definitely felt better before. And you?”

“Not too bad,” Christen is biting her lip as she focuses on her driving again, “Didn’t have to sit through too many meetings today.”

 

Tobin knows that she has been struggling to maintain attention in her mass amounts of meetings with financial advisors and payroll specialists and everything else that she needs to do to run a business.

 

“Where are we off to tonight Ms. Press?”

 

Christen tries not to shiver as Tobin grabs her elbow, rubbing softly with her thumb at the exposed skin in a comforting way. It’s almost seven and Christen is ready for a drink and a meal, “Well, there’s this place I went to for cocktails a couple weeks ago. It’s pretty trendy, lots of vegetarian options and what not, a lot of twenty something young professionals.”

 

“Nice,” Tobin is glad Christen gave her a heads up to dress a little nicer than she has for their past few dates, but was pleased to hear when Christen told her they’d mostly be inside save for walking from parking the car. They find street parking about two blocks away and Christen pays for two hours with the change she leaves in her cupholders.

 

One thing that Christen would not have expected from her first few conversations with Tobin is how affectionate she would be. She knows that tonight is probably the last time she’s going to see her before she leaves LA for good but Tobin has got her left hand behind Christen’s back, it’s not wrapped all the way around and resting on her waist, but instead is settled half way up the middle of her back and is scratching up and down lightly beneath her jacket and above her dress. Christen offers her a smile while they wait for the hostess to seat them at their table.

 

Tobin tucks the veil her hair has formed around her face behind her ear while she browses the menu, she texted Christen telling her that she didn’t think a drink or two would hurt on her day off so she’s ready to order something from the drink menu when the waiter comes to their table. Tobin settles for a locally brewed beer and Christen orders a mojito.

 

Together they decide to order a salad for two and split a barbeque chicken flatbread pizza for dinner. Christen enjoys the way that Tobin traces the outside of her own right hand but never fully grasps it when she’s not sipping on her beer and the way that her cheeks flush red slightly with each sip she has. The way that Tobin opens up to her, and smiles as she tells her about her childhood and college years makes Christen wonder if maybe Tobin hasn’t opened up to someone in as long as she has, because the tidbits she knows from Tobin’s childhood and college don’t necessarily add up to the person she presents to Christen today. She’s one of those shy, adventurous people that don’t necessarily give you much unless you pry into them and Christen likes that, because Tobin makes her feel comfortable talking about things that her friends don’t understand, things like how much LA really stresses her out and how she really feels about franchising and artificiality.

 

“Are you excited for your game?” Christen asks halfway through their pizza, the conversation they were having about their respective best friends from college coming to a lull.

 

“Yeah,” Tobin shakes her head in that so-so way when she feels pretty mediocre about something, “It’s been a quick two weeks here. I hate to sound like a cocky professional athlete but, I guess what I’m about to say is the truth, but it’ll be an easy game, we’re playing Ireland. I probably won’t play much so they can test out some of the newbies they called into camp. But I think I’m ready for a break, I’ve kind of not stopped playing for even like a month in the past two years maybe since normally if I was still playing in France I would’ve already been packed up and been over there to start the season by now.”

 

“Do you miss it? France, I mean,” Christen has been wanting to ask Tobin this for a while, she’ll occasionally mention how she moved back permanently last year but Christen has been wary of bringing it up since Tobin usually will choose to focus on something else after mentioning the past few years of her life there.

 

“Um,” Tobin wipes her hand on the napkin in her lap before taking a sip of her beer before she answers, because maybe a couple of months ago her answer would have been a steadfast yes but recently she’s been questioning herself as to what is causing her to feel like she’s been in an emotional rut and is starting to realize that maybe it’s not as much to do with France as she originally thought, “I don’t know if it’s necessarily France itself that I miss, or even necessarily the club, but maybe more of the lifestyle. Like I always had something to do, there was always somewhere new to travel, I didn’t have much time to just sit down and do my own thing, you know?”

 

Christen shakes her head, nodding at her response. She’s been getting a sort of feeling that Tobin is not necessarily completely set with her life in Portland, that she’s a little unsure of what’s to come when she returns, or even that she’s avoiding the city potentially. That’s what doesn’t make sense in her brain, “And where are you headed for Christmas? What are your plans?”

 

Christen doesn’t know much more about what is to come for Tobin other than that she’s leaving, but she’s genuinely curious as to what Tobin is going to get up to in her apparently extensive free time, “Well I’m going to fly up to Portland for a day, I’ve been living out of my suitcase for three weeks and need to switch out all my gear for new clothes and stuff. Then I’m going to fly to meet my brother and we’ll drive from his college down to Florida to my mom’s place. Stay there through New Years, hit up Perry’s place in New York for a little, then I’m going to go back to Portland for a week or two before visiting some of my friends from the team who are pregnant and retired. Then it’s Olympic trials and preseason and then, well, life resumes I guess. Sorry, that was probably more than you were looking for.”

 

“No, no, I’m glad that you seem excited for the next couple weeks,” She takes a drink from her own glass, “I think it’ll be good for you to relax after the year you’ve had.”

 

That’s a feeling that she thinks she’s been secretly harboring from Christen, she doesn’t know much about soccer but she does know that winning the World Cup was probably a really big deal and Tobin mentioned that they had an additional ten games with the national team this year. It hasn’t sounded like she’s had much time to sit down, take a breath, and reflect on whatever has happened to her this year.

 

“Yeah,” Tobin glances down at her lap, nodding slightly more confidently than she maybe would have a couple weeks ago but still not completely there yet, “It should be fun, good for me even.”

 

“I mean, Tobin, I do not know you that well, at all but,” She snatches the bill that the waiter put down at the table mid sentence before Tobin even has a chance to think about it, and slides a card into the pocket, “It sounds like you’ve been go, go, go for a long time and I think you like your life to be like that. Maybe it might be nice though, I can tell that you’re not necessarily looking forward to this break for whatever reason, but it might be nice for you to just sit and be still and breath for a second. Regroup at the beginning of the year, take the world by storm after. You know, decorate your apartment a little, make it feel more like home. I don’t think having somewhere to call home base will necessarily be as bad as you think it will be. I mean, maybe it would be nice to have somewhere to come back to, relax, be by yourself for a while.”

 

Tobin knows what she’s talking about, she remembers mentioning a while ago about how her friends and her had decided to move out of their shared house and into apartments, mainly because Alex was moving to Orlando and Allie was getting married, leading them to split from the house they’d shared since they started in Portland years ago and leaving Tobin feeling that much more lonely than she’d been. Christen doesn’t know about that, just that she mentioned that her moving into this apartment meant living by herself for the first time in her entire life.

 

They linger for a few minutes, talking about the headboard, table, and shelf that she wants to get made when she returns back to Portland. As the restaurant starts to empty out, Tobin and Christen decide that it’s maybe time to head back to the car. Tobin wraps her arm completely around Christen’s back this time as the walk back to the car and Christen reciprocates with her own. She feels comfortable with Tobin’s warm body pressed into her side as she digs for her keys. It’s dark out, and what should be a quick endeavor is much more difficult than it should have been, and it takes her even longer as she starts to fumble when Tobin’s lips find her neck, again .

 

There’s something different about it this time, it’s not as playful and more purposeful, more urgent than it had been previously. When Tobin kisses down her chin and up to her mouth she lets out the softest and weakest of moans, then the arm that Tobin had previously wrapped around her back dropped down, her hand half covering the curve of her butt. Tobin is huffing in her ear when she asks, “Could we maybe go back to your place?”

 

Christen’s hands are tucked into Tobin’s hair, keeping her face as close to her own as possible, “Of course.”

 

This is where Christen had wanted the night to go when she set out for dinner tonight. She wasn’t sure what was up with this weird temporary dating thing they had going on but she knew that she didn’t want Tobin to leave before she was able to release this pent up physical tension that they had going on. She would be lying if she said that Tobin’s small touches of endearment didn’t affect her more than she had let on.

 

The car ride to her place is quiet, Tobin has their hands clasped together though and Tobin’s thumb is rubbing over her own. There’s music turned on quietly in the background of the short drive to Christen’s town house.

 

Christen pulls into her driveway and she hears Tobin unbuckle her seatbelt before she even puts the car in park. She unlocks her door to let Tobin in and she follows her, a hand resting lightly on her waist as they each toe the shoes off their feet.

 

“Do you like red wine?” She moves in the direction of the kitchen, Tobin following her from a safe distance. Tobin slips into a spot at her kitchen counter, “I have like half a bottle leftover from when I had some friends over the other night.

 

Tobin watches as she pulls out the bottle, “I’d love some wine.”

 

So Christen pours two glasses and motions in the direction of the couch, she sits down and tucks her legs up under her. Her body is leaning slightly to the left, towards the spot where Tobin settles down in. Tobin sits down facing her as much as possible while still allowing her crossed legs to dangle over the edge of the couch, she takes a long sip of the wine before she sets it down on the coffee table in front of her.

 

Christen’s house is homey, much homier than Tobin would have anticipated. The walls are light with a few paintings here and there and her furniture is a soft gray with a few colored accent pillows and dark wood accents. Tobin rests her hand on Christen’s thigh, before changing her mind and letting it slide up to her waist again. “I like your house,” She mutters as she dips her head in Christen’s direction, falling directly onto her lips exactly like she aimed for.

 

Christen has a thanks poised at the tip of her mouth for a few seconds before she loses it to the tip of Tobin’s tongue as it wanders into her mouth. Tobin’s hands are moving up and down her side, she can feel her palms across the side of her breasts in her passes. Christen has moved her hand from its usual perch on the side of Tobin’s neck and lets it drift down Tobin’s front, her hand slowing at the curve of her breasts and down the ridges of her abs and then runs her hand around as far towards Tobin’s ass as she can reach but not quite being able to get to her destination so she repeats the same track in reverse and can feel the hitch of Tobin’s breath in her mouth this time. When Tobin separates to catch a breath, she tilts her head back so she can make a move before Tobin reattaches them at the lips, “Tobin, I have a bed.”

 

“Oh, you do, do you?” Tobin chuckles against her neck as she had started nipping her way down after Christen had turned her head, “And where would this bed be located?”

 

Christen stands up, pulling Tobin up with a tug of her hands as they abandon post on the couch and their wine glasses on the table. When they had walked in, Christen had suspected that they might need one more drink since they’d only had one each at the restaurant before things would progress but she underestimated themselves.

 

Christen hadn’t thought that Tobin would abandon the hand that she had used to pull her up on the short walk to her bedroom but then again she also wasn’t surprised as she felt Tobin’s hand trace from the bottom of her zip just above her butt to the top, and as they’re still walking she feels her dress becoming loose right before they reach their destination, at which point Tobin pushes her back into the door she had just shut and she keeps their heads attached by the mouth but steps back her body and uses her hands to slide Christen’s dress off down her shoulders. Once it’s off, Christen uses her own hand to push at Tobin’s shoulder so she spins around and Christen can unzip her. She watches as Tobin lets her dress fall to the ground as she walks to the bed before turning around and almost lounging back, resting her palms down so she’s half laying on the bed and half sitting, “You coming?”

 

She chuckles at her partner and motions for Tobin to move back and lay down on the bed before she crawls over top of her. She starts her own pattern of nipping and sucking down Tobin’s neck, down her chest, along the edges of her bra and down the other girls abs. Tobin’s hands fumble behind her back as she’s doing her own work and she can feel the material that normally hugs her close fall and expose her to the colder air around her. When she’s balanced and stable, she lifts her hands that were keeping her balanced one at a time to allow Tobin’s thin fingers to slide the straps completely off her.

 

Taking a moment to forcefully slide her hands under Tobin’s back, she’s thankful for the way that Tobin arches as she returns the favor, unleashing her as well. She misses Tobin’s smirk as her hands drift down to Christen’s chest, having their own fun. Christen groans either at the touch or at the fact that Tobin’s own chest is bare and naked for her to see. The lacy bra and panty set is not something she anticipated Tobin would be wearing and it just slightly reminds her of how little she actually knows about the other woman in front of her, not that it matters now that they’re wrapped up in each other.

 

Christen has got a million and one thoughts running through her head while she’s tending to Tobin, how little she knows her but also how much she does know about her, the way that Tobin’s muscles contract and how she can see them contract, the way that Tobin’s hands never leave her body fully, even as she moves further south and places her mouth against her core, she thinks about how light she feels, and how she hopes Tobin is enjoying it (and from the sounds of it she is really enjoying it), and she’s thinking about all the ways that she can make the next few hours matter before Tobin leaves her for good.

 

-

 

When Tobin starts to wake it’s to the touch of soft incredible sheets pulled up to her chest, her head is on a pillow that is possibly the softest she’s ever felt, and a mattress that her body sinks into perfectly.

 

As she pops one eye open she notices that the stark white pillowcase is on the opposite end of the color spectrum from the dark gray pillowcase she travels with on her own pillow. The sleepy fog covering her memory starts to dissipate as she rubs the sleep from her eyes. Even if her memory failed her, the ache between her thighs certainly doesn’t. An ache that is certainly not from Dawn’s two-a-day from the day before.

 

Then she notices the other side of the bed, comforter and sheets pulled back, exposing a noticeably empty spot. Tobin didn’t think that Christen would be the type of person to just leave like that but sometimes intuition leads you astray. She reaches over to the bedside table for her phone but comes up empty. Obviously, she thinks, her phone was probably still down in the kitchen or on the couch or wherever her purse ended up before her dress fell to the floor. So much for ordering an uber before she got changed back into her fallen panties and dress. But just as she’s pushing herself to sit up, holding the sheets tightly to her chest, she hears the softest possible swing of a door and sees Christen entering, trying to be as quiet as possible.

 

“Shit, sorry, I hope I didn’t wake you,” She’s got a soft smile on her face as she abandons her cautionary tiptoeing.

 

“You didn’t,” Tobin returns the soft smile back as Christen makes her way back towards the bed. She lets her body softly return to its previously horizontal position as Christen sits back down in her previously occupied spot. She’s got a soft fluffy white bathrobe on (of course Christen is a robe person, Tobin thinks) but when she sits back down with her back still facing Tobin, she unties the waist and lets it fall back down, exposing her nudity briefly before she pulls the sheets back and slides ever so closely to Tobin.

 

“There, like I never left,” Christen can’t help but smile back at Tobin, she feels warm and comfortable staring at her face as she curls further into the pillows, “I had to go let my dogs out. I was hoping you didn’t hear them barking.”

 

“You have dogs?” Tobin’s eyes light up and Christen’s smile widens at her expression, “As in more than one, plural?”

 

“I have two,” Christen nods, letting a giggle escape her mouth at the fact that somehow between their fun last night and waking up Tobin had transformed mentally from a twenty-something (Christen realizes just now that she doesn’t know exactly how old Tobin is) to a six year old in the matter of hours, “Morena and Khaleesi.”

 

“Wow, you named your dog after the mother of dragons?” Tobin is silently happy that Christen is into Game of Thrones but is still more focused on the dogs, “Can I pet them before I leave?”

 

“Of course, do you watch? Or read?” Christen can’t help but reach out her hand to push some of Tobin’s fallen hair behind her ear so that she can see her face again.

 

“Attempted to read,” Tobin laughs at her pathetic excuse of an attempt at reading just the first novel, “It’s not exactly an easy series to travel with.” She says referring to the thick, dense books, “I liked the plot line though so I just turned to the tv series.”

 

Christen mumbles, catching herself before saying they’ll have to watch the new season together before she remembers that Tobin is leaving, and she probably won’t be seeing her again after this, “Speaking of leaving, I was thinking if you wanted, that we could shower and then grab brunch? One last hurrah before you leave?”

 

She’s a little surprised when she feels Tobin’s familiar fingers dance along her side under the sheets and suddenly her lips are pressed against her own for a brief second, something Christen definitely wasn’t expecting, “Yes to breakfast, for sure, but about the shower thing? Depends, will you be there?”

 

Christen smirks back at her, giggling softly as Tobin’s hands get a little more adventurous with their paths, “I think we can arrange that.”

 

-

 

Christen ends up at brunch with Tobin sometime around one by the time they managed to finish their fun in the shower and change into some of Christen’s extra workout clothes that she didn’t mind Tobin keeping after today. They both think that it’s a little odd, Tobin’s still a little annoyed with herself for succumbing to Christen’s lips and kissing her when she probably shouldn’t have. Christen plays along with whatever is happening, certainly won’t complain about the shower activities but she would be lying if she didn’t say she was a little confused by Tobin’s affection as they waited their fifteen minutes for a table.

 

It’s almost like nothing happened, like the rewound to before they had sex and were just going to one last meal before Tobin left. They drag their brunch out, much too long than it should have been and when they slide into the car Tobin finally addresses the topic they had a silent agreement on but that desperately needed to be talked about now that the moment was looming. After Christen switches the car into drive, Tobin reaches to grab her hand and loops their fingers together, but she also places her other hand on top of Chirstens, “Chris, I really enjoyed this time we had together. It meant more to me than I think you know.”

 

Christen turns her head to her with just a tinge of sadness in her smile, “Tobin, I don’t know exactly what’s been going on in your life that’s kept you down, but I think you’re moving in the right direction. Give it a little more time and you’ll be home free.”

 

“Thanks,” Tobin smiles down at her lap a little, “I mean it though, I really like you and I had a really good time getting to know you. I wish we had more time.”


“I really like you too Tobin,” Christen slows into the parking lot of the hotel, the drop off lane is full of cars and she pulls into a parking spot, knowing this goodbye could take longer than would be acceptable anyway, “And I agree, but you have to go, and I understand. I had a lot of fun and you’re a pretty great person.”

 

Christen pulls their interlaced hands to her mouth, dropping a kiss onto the back of Tobin’s hand. She lets go after and opens her door, watching as Tobin does the same.

 

When she walks to the other side of the door, both her and Tobin’s bodies collide rather harshly as Tobin holds onto Christen rather tightly, “Do you regret leaving me your number at that coffee shop?”

 

Christen laughs, blushing a little at how flustered she had been just a few days ago in front of the exact same person, “Of course not,” she pinches Tobin at the hip where her hand had been resting.

 

“Good, I’m glad I didn’t disappoint,” Tobin looks back into her eyes, flashing down at her lips, “Do you mind if I kiss you one more time?”

 

Christen is barely able to shake her head no before Tobin’s lips are pressing against hers. They aren’t crashing this time like they did in the rush after the first time they had coffee together, nor are they searching like they were after tacos, and nor were they frantic in an attempt to memorize as much about the other person as possible before Tobin’s departure. They’re just soft, thankful and grateful.

 

“Thanks again Christen,” Tobin pulls back so that her hands are still on each other but their bodies aren’t touching anywhere else, “I know I’ve said it like five times but I had a really good few days.”

 

“No problem,” Their hands completely drop now, but before Christen completely lets Tobin walk away from the situation she stops her, “Tobin, if you ever find yourself single in LA, give me a call.”

 

Tobin gives her a nod with a grin on her face.

 

“I’m serious,” Christen states again, “Or even if you’re not single, I’d love to hear how your life is going, okay?”

 

“I’m sure I’ll be back,” Tobin thinks, LA is a pretty regular training spot. Maybe she’ll take Christen up on the offer sometime.

 

“Okay, well,” They’re just standing and staring at each other at this point, “I guess this is goodbye.”

 

“Yeah, I guess it is,” Tobin takes a few backward steps, “Bye Christen.”

 

“Bye Tobin.”

 

Christen watches as Tobin retreats one last time, offering her one final wave as she enters the building, which Christen returns. She can’t help but feel a little sad as she watches the girl retreat, she can’t place the feeling really. She didn’t know Tobin well enough to really feel all that completely heart broken to see her go but more that she just wishes they could have had a little more time. A little more time to get to know each other so she could feel a little more confident letting Tobin go, a little more confident that Tobin was feeling okay about what happened, and a little more confident that this, whatever this was, had been a good thing for Tobin and that she could get back on her feet soon.

 

-

 

When Tobin finally reaches her empty room, she drops the bag that Christen had given her to put her dress and purse in on the ground and collapses onto the bed. She has a funny feeling that she can’t quite pinpoint, she’s sad to see Christen go but she doesn’t feel broken. If anything she feels a little more stable than before they met. Something like Christen had instilled a confidence in her and allowed her to talk honestly about her life to someone from an outside perspective. Maybe Christen was exactly the nudge she needed to get her out of the emotional rut that she didn’t even really know she was in.

Chapter Text

When Tobin walks into her hotel room in February she almost lets out a sigh of relief to see her roommate’s suitcase exploding over one of the hotel beds as she enters. She’s a little uncertain starting camp, more so than she’d care to admit. The roster changes had been a bit questionable in her mind but she tries to remind herself that she’s not a coach, it’s not her decision, and just because she thinks that certain players may be better than others does not mean that the coaching staff agrees.

 

That being said, she’s excited about this new roommate pairing. She’s with Emily, which she’s selfishly happy about for two reasons. One being that Emily is a newly minted member of the Thorns and she’s excited to get this extra chance to get to know her new center back before the season starts and the other being that she knows limited information about her personal life.

 

Tobin’s been trying this new thing out during her time off, it’s called independence. She’s trying to figure out how to live by herself and, like, be an adult. She spent nearly two weeks in Portland at her apartment, going to coffee shops by herself and restaurants to try new food. She’s been trying to find new hiking spots, running routes, and wants to know where the best place to do yoga is. She’s been decorating.

 

And that’s what set Tobin’s mom over the edge when they were talking on the phone the other day. She’d sent her mom a picture of some pillows in front of her couch, asking her if she thought they matched well with the colors of her walls.

 

“Tobin, honey,” Her mother’s voice is soothing, even through the phone, “Are you doing okay out there by yourself?”

 

Her mother had expressed her concern about Tobin’s plans for the rest of the month after she was set to leave her family after New Years, she’d be spending two weeks in Portland all by herself. No Allie, no Alex, only a couple of her team mates had stuck around the city for the rest of the year and she hadn’t even been completely sure if any of them would be around.

 

“I’m fine mom,” She resists the urge to rolls her eyes as she cradles the phone between her shoulder and her cheek.

 

“Okay honey, you know I just worry about you,” Tobin thinks back to the amount of times that she’s asked how she was doing over her Christmas holiday, “You’re just so far away from the rest of us.”

 

“I know mom,” She smiles, glad that her mom cares so deeply for her but knows that part of her concern may run a little deeper for Tobin particularly than it does for her other siblings. Perry had recently gotten engaged, Katie was long since married and had a son, and Jeffrey had his long term girlfriend. That left just her, quickly approaching 28 and single as a pringle without a single prospect and Olympic preparations consuming her life for the next few months. Tobin wasn’t the only one to notice that all of her friends seemed to be getting married at an exponential rate these days. So pair this concern with Tobin’s ‘move’ to Portland full time (or as close to full time as she would allow) on the other side of the country and her mom was a bit more nervous about her future than usual, “I just feel like if I’m going to have this apartment, I should use it, you know?”

 

“It’s just not very you Tobs,” She can hear her mother’s steady breathing through the phone.

 

“What, the pillows?” Tobin actually really like the pillows, they were mostly gray with different patterns in light oranges, blues, and yellows.

 

“No Tobin,” Her mom laughs through the phone, “I mean you, spending time by yourself. I feel like you should be off travelling somewhere or something, I don’t know, or here with us.”

 

“I can’t spend forever living off of other people though,” Tobin’s voice drips a little bit with sadness at this, but really it’s not fair to her friends and family to keep bouncing through each of their houses every once and awhile, “I don’t know, it was kinda weird staying with Amy and Lauren this time around. They’ve kinda got their own lives to deal with, I can’t keep expecting them to drop everything to have me over now that they’ve got kids and stuff to deal with.”

 

In reality, Tobin really enjoyed bouncing from friend to friend but it was getting difficult, like really difficult. Alex is married and living in Orlando with Servando now, Allie’s engaged too and in high speed wedding mode, Amy is having her second kid, Lauren spilled that it was really early but she was expecting too, Perry’s getting married and it’s not really fair of her to drop in whenever with her focus on planning a wedding and moving with Taylor, and Katie’s got her own kid to take care of too.

 

“It might just be time mom, maybe I need to grow up a little, do my own thing,” Tobin actually is long overdue for this, seeing as it’s just been the last two weeks where she really truly has lived by herself, “Ya know?”

 

“Can’t you do your own thing a little closer to us,” Her mom knows that she would if she could, but right now it’s just not possible.

 

“You know I would mom,” She also knows her mom wishes that she was a little closer to home, maybe playing in New Jersey or even Orlando now, but she’s beginning to think there was a reason that God gave her Portland. She’s actually really been enjoying her time here by herself, she’s really started to plan the things she wants to accomplish this year, on and off the field. She’s started lists of things to do with her friends and places to go once they get to Portland in a few weeks and she’s also started to create a new training plan now that she’s the only ‘natural’ winger left on the national team with Pinoe’s torn ACL. Most importantly she’s been taking the time to get used to being by herself, refreshing her brain, refocusing on what she wants in the future without having to cater those ideas around somebody else’s preconceived notions, “But it’s not so bad here, I’m really liking it so far. There’s a lot to do here.”

 

“Maybe I just miss you a little too much,” Tobin hopes that her mom knows she’s smiling encouragingly through the phone, “You know I’m so proud of everything you do, right?”

 

Tobin laughs, because how could she not know. Her mom is the queen of words of encouragement. Her whole life she’s grown up to find notes in her bags and on the fridge and her bedside table and since she left for college handwritten cards for every holiday, including groundhog day, “I know mom, love ya.”

 

“I love you too baby,” Tobin can hear something in the background fall, “I’m sorry honey, I’ve been making dinner while on the phone with you but maybe I should take that as my cue to go.”

 

“No problem mom, I’ll call you in a couple days, alright?”

 

“Sounds good sweetie. Talk soon.”

 

-

 

Emily walks out of the bathroom as Tobin begins to empty her suitcase. One of her largest tasks she wanted to do this year was to become more organized. This means, unpacking her suitcase so that 1) she doesn’t forget about the clothes packed at the very bottom and 2) that she won’t go digging for something later that would lead her to unfolding all the clothes she’d packed.

 

“Hey Tobs!” Emily’s grin is wide, dimples defined as she looks around at Tobin’s suitcase.

 

“Hey, congratulations!” Tobin throws her arms out, “Welcome to the Thorns!”

 

“Thanks,” Her grin grows a little wider, Tobin remembers what it felt like to be freshly drafted and ready to get out onto the field full time, “I’ve been talking with Mark a lot, it’s going to be so lit this year.”

 

Tobin almost chokes on a laugh, feeling more her age and removed from her youth than ever when she hears the slang term, “Yeah, lit.”

 

In response Emily is about to collapse of laughter at Tobin’s attempt, “Good try Tobs, don’t worry we’ve got all season for me to catch you up on all the slang us kids are using today.”

 

“Perfect, I was getting concerned,” She’s returned to digging through her suitcase while Emily goes to open the door, apparently expecting someone.

 

“Tobin!” Moe shouts from the doorway, rushing in to give her a hug, “What is up my friend?”

 

Tobin accepts the hug, letting Moe pull her head into the crevice between her neck and shoulder, “Ya know, just trying to live life. How are you?”

 

“Great! Just got back from vacation,” Morgan brushes her hand up her arm, “Look, I’m getting there.”

 

Morgan rests her arm next to Tobin’s, a couple shades darker than it had been back in December in LA. There’s a running joke among the team to try and be as tan as the Jersey girls.

 

Even though Tobin truly enjoyed her few weeks alone in Portland, she’s happy to be back around her team again. Through thick and thin, most of these girls are her best friends and are just about the only people in the world who understand the lifestyle she lives. So even though her conversations have been at a superficial level at best so far, she’s happy for the company, happy to hear the familiar sounds of laughter coming out of different rooms in their hallway.

 

There actually aren’t that many members of the team in yet, Moe and Emily had flown in together from Georgia but a lot of the rest of the team were still going to be trickling in throughout the day. Tobin takes these last few hours of calm and quiet to journal for a little bit and grab some coffee before the chaos of Olympic qualifiers set in.

 

-

 

Tobin meets up with Kelley, Alyssa, Alex, and Allie at a coffee shop (surprise) about an hour after Allie’s flight arrives. When she walks through the door, she’s greeted with some of the most familiar faces she’s ever seen. The four are hard at work, a sort of assembly line set up as they’re stuffing, addressing, and stamping wedding invites for Allie. Side hugs are about all they can muster as she makes her way around the table before asking how she can help and joins Kelley at the end of the table to peel and stick stamps.

 

They’re talking about general life developments, Allie’s talking about planning her honeymoon, Alex is talking about the house that she just bought with Serv, Kelley’s talking about her new girl, and Alyssa’s stuck sort of in the same boat as her, sitting silently and observing as the other three talk at a million miles an hour.

 

“You’ve been awfully quiet down there Tobs,” Tobin is lightly biting the inside of her cheek when she hears her name for the first time come up in conversation, and to be honest she’s not really been paying attention, a little caught up in her thoughts and trying not to waste any stamps by accidentally touching them to another surface before they reach the envelopes. To be fair, everything they’re talking about Tobin has already read in their group message. More of the same old really, wedding this, flowers that, husband x, fiancee y.

 

“Huh?”

 

Alex’s eyes are curious as she meets them with her own from across the table, “What’ve you been up to the past few weeks? You’ve been kind of awol on social media and haven’t responded to a lot of our texts.”

 

“Oh, I’ve been in Portland.”

 

Tobin is almost a little offended at the way Alex practically chokes on her coffee, “By yourself?”

 

Alex knows that Allie definitely hasn’t been to Portland for a while, and knows that Kling, Lindsey, and Emily certainly haven’t been to Portland yet either so she’s quite a bit confused when Tobin nods her head in confirmation.

 

“But, why?”

 

“I don’t know, I kinda already made the rounds and I had a lot to do. I didn’t have any furniture besides my bed and a couch when I left and I wanted to get that sorted before the season started,” All of which were true statements, she’d visited the friends and family she needed to and she had bought furniture.

 

“Tobin you could have come down and visited us,” Tobin’s not really sure why exactly Alex is trying to dig so far into this, sure she’d been a little absent in their group text but not anymore than usual.

 

“You were moving,” She shrugs, willing to move the conversation along because there’s really not much to it. Yeah, she spent some time alone, relaxing, which she doesn’t do very often, but maybe she needed it.

 

“You didn’t have to be alone though Tobin.”

 

Tobin tucks that little piece of information into the back of her mind, the more the days wear on the more it seems that someone expresses their concern about Tobin being alone or being lonely. Which, to be fair, Tobin has almost hated to be alone over the past few years which is why she subconsciously just ran and bumped from friend to friend, house to house but that was always going to have to stop, or at least slow down the frequency and pace at which she did it, “I was fine, I think it was good for me. I don’t think I’ve spent more than a day by myself in two or three years.”

 

“Are you sure?” This time it’s Kelley who interjects with raised eyebrows, if anyone at the table understands the past year for Tobin it’s actually her. Kelley and her had gone through breakups at pretty similar times and had relatively similar coping mechanisms, so they’d had some pretty fun times together while trying to escape from life, “You’ve just seemed a little off since, I mean the last few months.”

 

Kelley’s path had changed in the middle of her sentence, not wanting to actually say what happened out loud. Tobin is actually a little annoyed that all her friends feel the need to tiptoe around her feelings all the time.

 

“By the past few months you mean since Shirley and I broke up,” Tobin can tell that Alex and Allie are a little surprised to hear her say it out loud, without averting her eyes anywhere, “You guys can say it, I’m not going to like spontaneously combust or anything.”

 

There were a couple things that Tobin had thought about in her time alone, mostly regarding her friends actions and responses towards her feelings. The first being that she’s not entirely sure if her friends know exactly how much she cares about her relationships. She’s not sure if Allie and Alex know how much their friendship means to her and how she slightly felt that their friendship was being put on the backburner since the marriage dominoes had been tipped over and that she missed talking about things that weren’t soccer, the Olympics, or wedding plans. She’s also not sure if they knew before the breakup how much she’d loved Shirley before the distance tore them apart. They’d talked about certain plans together, like how Shirley had considered joining the Dash or how Tobin had tried so desperately to stay at PSG so that she wouldn’t have the distance hurdle. It’s not like Allie and Alex didn’t understand distance, after all Alex had just changed her entire career to be closer to her husband, and Bati and Allie had done long distance from Portland to New York before but Tobin always selfishly thought that her situation was different from theirs. Looking back, there was never going to be a solution. Shirley was never going to be able to make anything less than $100,000 less than her current salary in Paris and Tobin was never going to be allowed to play in Paris if she wanted to play in the World Cup. There was simply no solution to the problem. That’s what they talked about when it came to Tobin’s previous relationship.

 

But then there’s all the things that Tobin doesn’t think she ever told them about, or had the opportunity to talk to them about. She never talked to them about how she’d had serious conversations with Shirley about marriage, and kids, and where they would live, and if they’d adopt, and how they’d make their respective citizenships work. It’s those things that she never talked about with them that probably bridged the gap for them wondering why Tobin was so devastated afterwards.

 

Maybe Tobin is bad at expressing feelings, or maybe it’s because she just never has in the past so it never comes up, but she’s also sure that she’s never told Allie and Alex about how simply defeated she felt after the breakup. She sat there and tried to be happy while she watched all her friends, not just Allie and Alex, but also Lauren and Amy and Syd and her siblings and her college friends start settling down while she had to turn around and start over.

 

Tobin already knew before she spent those few weeks by herself that there was some underlying tones of jealousy and loneliness as she watched her friends retire, get married, and have babies but she also thinks she hit the very end of the root of the problem.

 

She thinks that the real reason she’s been having all these feelings is because she’s terrified shitless of what comes after soccer.

 

Soccer has been her life for as long as she could remember, nothing could get in the way of her relationship with the ball. She even used soccer as a sort of veil to mask her sexuality for much too long, always claiming she was too busy travelling for soccer to find a boyfriend for herself, so really she thinks coming out was the first time she separated a part of her life from soccer.

 

Before the breakup she knew what would come after soccer. It was pretty straightforward actually. Hopefully Shirley and her would be able to get married somewhere in the states, maybe live somewhere near where she grew up, or maybe somewhere completely different, it didn’t really matter to Tobin. Maybe even Florida so she could be nearer to her mom and Katie, and so that the flight would be shorter to visit Shirley’s family.

 

That had been The Plan and then when it wasn’t she was a little more than shook up.

 

So when she’d been in Portland and realized that even though she still had at least a cycle left in her and knew how much could change in the matter of four years, she thinks that that was really what shook her to the core. And Alex and Allie had no clue, and maybe if they did they’d understand a little more about why she just needed a little more time to heal.

 

And so she felt stuck. She had felt stuck in her relationship that wasn’t going to go anywhere but she also felt stuck out of it. She felt stuck because she needed to start over and she didn’t know how without the perfect situation being placed in her lap like it had the last time. She didn’t know how to meet new people and she certainly didn’t know how to date.

 

On the flip side, her time had allowed her to think about what she really wanted in the future. Her non-compromised, ideal life plan. Realistically, was it going to happen? No. Would she have to compromise? Probably. Would her ideals change if she found the right person, but she just wasn’t what Tobin had anticipated her to be like? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean she couldn’t dream. And she did, she thought a lot about herself and what she wanted to do, not what would be best for her and someone else, just what would be best for her.

 

She considered things like jobs, would she want to coach? Maybe. Would she want to go back to school? Definitely not. Did she want to work in an office? Also probably not. Did she want to just be a stay at home mom? It was possible. Would she run soccer training classes like she attended as a teenager? Almost definitely.

 

So maybe the whole job thing didn’t have a definitive answer, but she pushed herself to think about it a lot more than she ever had before and she was satisfied with that.

 

Maybe agreeing to help with pressing stamps wasn’t the greatest idea, because these are all the thoughts that rushed into her head after Alex, Allie, and Kelley sit and watch her.

 

-

 

Most of Tobin’s time at the tournament is spent playing soccer, like usual. This time though is particularly brutal, they’re playing five games in a ridiculously short amount of time and Tobin’s playing almost every minute of every game. All of their bodies are beat up by the time the finals roll around, and with a guaranteed spot in the Olympics she can sense a release of tension among the team. It’s odd she thinks, they’ve never been a team to not passionately want to win every single game they play but she gets an odd feeling that everyone is satisfied with their play going into the final.

 

They’ve just finished their semi, had won and were ready to take on Canada in the final. She’d been sitting watching a replay of the Canada/Costa Rica game, and it was brutal. Even though they weren’t together anymore, Tobin wasn’t heartless. Her and Shirley hadn’t left things on horrible terms, and she knew that one of the only people who took losing just as hard as she did was her. The difference was that Shirley had to deal with the disappointment a lot more than she did. Costa Rica had put up a fight, that was clear to Tobin in the replay even though she knew the game had ended 3-1 before she started watching. Without thinking, she sends Shirley a text even though it’s a day late, wanting to let her know she’d played a good game. They’d met for coffee briefly a few days after their own match up. She was glad they were able to talk relatively freely about the things they cared about the most, soccer and family, because after all she still cares about her wellbeing. Mostly Tobin was glad she was doing well, but also was glad to know she wasn’t the only one who’d had a rough few months.

 

Other than those few texts, it’s been mostly dry between them.

 

She’s spending time in the recovery room, it’s pretty empty considering Tobin went to rest in her room for a little bit before making her way down, in hopes that she’d miss the post practice rush. A trainer is peeling off some old tape from a particularly gnarly turf burn wound on her knee when her phone rings beside her. She’d made sure to bring her phone with her, she was waiting on a call from Perry to figure out if there was a store in Portland that she could go to try on her maid of honor dress for the summer before she chooses a size so she picks it up after the first ring without even glancing at the caller ID.

 

“Hey,” Tobin had started confidently but it came out a little bit more wary than she intended as tape got stuck to her skin and was yanked a little harshly away.

 

“Tobin!” The voice is distinctly not her sisters, and sounds pretty distinctly like a curly haired girl from LA, “I wasn’t sure if you’d pick up or not.”

 

“Christen, hi,” She takes a glance down at her knee once the bandages are completely removed and winces a little at the sight, that one’s definitely going to scar, “Sorry if I sounded a little surprised there, I didn’t look at my caller ID before I picked up. What’s up?”

 

Tobin can not possibly think of a reason why Christen would call her, though she would be lying if she didn’t say that the sound of her voice, even through the phone, didn’t pick up her mood in the slightest way possible.

 

“So this may be a little crazy but-” Her sentences are slowing down, and Tobin knows that’s her tell tale sign that she’s biting her lip again.

 

“Spit it out Chris,” Tobin laughs teasingly into the phone, unsure of why the other girl is nervous yet again.

 

“I was wondering if you were going to be around Portland at all next week,” Tobin freezes at the thought, trying to pause her mind so that she can think of her schedule without getting her hopes up, “I’m going to be there for work for like five days and was thinking that if our schedules matched up maybe we could go to that waffle place you told me about?”

 

“You want me to take you on a hot date to the Waffle Window?” She thinks through her schedule, preseason would be starting but they wouldn’t leave for their trip to Bend for a few days after they finish base line testing which would be right at the start of preseason, “Yeah, I’ll be in Portland, I’d love to show you around if you’ve got time.”

 

“That sounds really nice Tobin, thanks,” Tobin can tell that she’s got something to say on the other side of the phone and that she’s questioning whether or not to finish her thought, “I didn’t think we’d be seeing each other so soon, I’m excited.”

 

“Me too Chris,” Tobin feels like she’s talking about reuniting with an old friend from college or something as she thinks about the upcoming week.

 

“I’ve missed you Tobin.”

 

Tobin feels her breath catch in her throat at the revelation, but it’s not something that scares her. Christen doesn’t scare her, and talking about feelings with Christen doesn’t scare her, “I’ve missed you too.”

 

The sound of knocking on a door floods through the speaker from Christen’s side of the phone and Tobin thinks she can hear a muffled voice, as though Christen had put her phone on her chest while she turned to check who’s at the door, “I’m sorry Tobin, someone’s knocking on my office door and I should probably get it, but when you get some time text me when you’re free. I want to hear about what you’ve been up to.”

 

“Okay, Christen?”

 

“Yeah Tobin?” She can hear Christen’s steps cease even through the phone.

 

“I’ll see you soon.”

 

“Yeah, see you soon.” And just like that the phone clicks off and Tobin’s back by herself in the recovery room.

 

-

 

Tobin is so busy focusing, training, and recovering in preparation for the final that she doesn’t have much time to think about what’s to come. Her mom comes to Texas to watch the final and invites Allie, Alex, and Kelley to coffee with them one day. Almost everyone has family and friends trickling in to support them, so much so that they end up shutting down a bar for their post game celebration.

 

Tobin hates playing Canada. Plain and simple. She hates the prospect of losing to a team who is more physical than they are, and she hates thinking back to that one game during the Olympics. But she scored her second goal of the year, and was pretty excited about that, especially considering that her mom was there to watch her.

 

She doesn’t think on the plane ride home to Portland, instead she lets the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion take over and falls asleep against the window of the airplane. She sleeps so well that she barely wakes when the plane lands.

 

With only one day off before preseason starts, she tries to get as much sleep as possible to try to catch up from her messed up schedule, gets herself to her apartment’s pool to try and recover, followed by a night yoga class at a studio she’d been to during her time off. Despite catching more sleep than she probably had in weeks, by the time she’s finished cooking herself dinner, eating, and washing her dishes at seven she’s just about dead tired.

 

There’s two full days of preseason ahead of her, with one day off, followed by another three rotations of two a day practices for two days followed by a day off, then they leave for Bend. It’s not really until she’s sitting there at seven when she realizes that Christen has probably just landed in Portland.

 

She hadn’t realized for a few days after Christen had called her, that she said she’d be there for work. Tobin was quick to wonder what that meant, considering that Christen owned her own business that was very obviously located in Southern California, but she didn’t ask because all they’d been texting about was dates and times. Christen seemed to be almost as busy as she was, with various meetings filling up her days and the occasional happy hour in the evening apparently. They make it work so that they’re going to go out after Tobin’s practice finishes at two the afternoon before her day off, and Tobin selfishly thinks that she is happy that Christen doesn’t have to be anywhere until noon the next day.

 

So Tobin goes through the next two days like normal, establishing her schedule for the new season. She heads over to Klings down the hall for her apartment warming/first day of preseason is over vegan appetizer party after her first day of practice. Her legs feel like they can barely move after all the minutes she played in the last few weeks combined with their morning gym workout and afternoon field practice. It’s fun though, and new. This team has never experienced a shake up like it had this year and the atmosphere is fun and light , yet she knows that their new additions are just as competitive and intense as she is.

 

The next day, as they finish with their practice and team strategy meeting in the afternoon, Mark asks her if she can stay a few minutes after to meet with him briefly. Despite knowing that she should really get in the shower and get ready to go and get Christen, she accepts, knowing that it’s probably important and that this is her job after all. Plus, she knows that Christen will understand and won’t mind.

 

When she gets pulled into the office, she’s a little surprised to see Sinc there, waiting with Mark. She flashes a smile to her favorite Canadian in greeting before grabbing a chair, “You here for the meeting too?”

 

Christine smiles warmly at her, and Tobin is reminded of how grateful she is to have such a calming force on the team with her. For as much as she dislikes Canada, she knows that Christine is perhaps one of the greatest players in the game but beyond that potentially the best leader and captain around, “Yeah, Mark and I wanted to talk with you about something.”

 

“So Tobin,” Mark folds his arms onto a desk, the office is nice, decked out in red with Thorns memorabilia, despite him being a new coach, “Basically, Sinc here is going to have to take a bit longer with recovery into the new season, she’ll be with us through the preseason trip to Bend, but may not be ready to start come preseason.”

 

Tobin nods, her face scrunched up a bit as to why she’s sitting here through this, seeing as she’s completely removed from whatever injury Sinc seems to have.

 

“Obviously we’re going to need a veteran leader of this team to really step up in her place while she’s out,” Sinc nods along with what Mark is saying, “Since I’m new here and don’t know your personalities as well yet, we’ve been talking about potential players who can step up to fill this void, and considering your play so far this year with the national team and what I’ve seen even in just the past two days, and from what Sinc has told me about you, we decided that we’d like to extend this responsibility to you.”

 

Tobin almost chokes on the protein shake she’s been drinking, captain? She tries to think of the last time she’d been a captain, even at UNC she’d had a shared captaincy position. Never on the youth national teams, barely in college, and never in her professional career had she ever worn the armband or even considered wearing the armband. She’s never considered herself a leader and truth be told felt like she was struggling to maintain a starting position until it had come down to a player getting injured for her spot to be completely secure, “You want me to be captain?”

 

Sinc laughs at her, “I knew you’d say that Tobs. But truth be told, I think you’d make a great captain for this team. You’re potentially the most dedicated player on this team, and notice it or not but even in the past two days you’ve really stepped it up with the new team. You’ve been connecting on plays, vocal on the field, encouraging off the field, I don’t see anybody else with your level of passion to this city, the game, and this team on the field right now.”

 

She can feel her body go tense, she is one of the older players now and has been trying to spread her knowledge among the team, but more so because she wants to win. She hates losing and Portland feels more like home now than it has the past three seasons and she thinks that this team, this city, and herself deserve better than how they ended last season. So yes, indirectly, she’s sort of been leading the team over the past few days, “What about Allie?”

 

Allie had been the captain last year when she hadn’t made the World Cup team, and Tobin had just assumed that she would be taking up that position again if Sinc weren’t around.

 

“We heavily considered it,” Mark agrees, “But based on what I’m seeing on the field, I’d like to give you a shot Tobin. I think you’ll do well.”

 

Tobin takes one big gulp of her protein shake, finishing it off, before nodding her head, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

 

Sinc smiles at her again, “Thanks Tobs, you’ll do great. I have faith in you.”

 

Tobin flushes a little but nods, “Big shoes to fill. I hate to break this party up, but is there anything else you need from me now? I sort of had plans and should probably text my friend that I’m going to be late before we continue.”

 

“Oh, no no,” Mark nods, “That’s all we needed, sorry for keeping you late. We appreciate it Tobin.”

 

“No problem,” Tobin’s smile is wide, toothy, and bright as she thanks the two before leaving the office with Sinc in tow.

 

When they round the corner with Mark’s office out of earshot, she hears Sinc speak up for the first time since they left, “Got a date?”

 

Tobin’s head snaps around, looking Sinc in the eyes before they re-enter the locker room. She’s always been too intuitive for her own good, “Sorta.”

 

“Good luck then,” She’s mostly quiet as Tobin grabs her stuff to shower, she’d planned on just getting ready at the stadium before leaving to get Christen, rather than going home.

 

“Thanks Sinc,” She says as she begins to shuck her clothes before wrapping a towel around her body, “Also for believing in me.”

 

“Tobin you’re way more humble than anyone I know,” Sinc offers back, “You deserve this.”

 

Tobin shakes her head, knowing Sinc isn’t looking in her direction, but she takes the words to heart, knowing that Sinc doesn’t lie about things when it comes to soccer, “I don’t know about that but thanks again.”

 

And with that the conversation ceases, almost everyone else had just headed back to their respective apartments to shower and it was just the two of them left. Christen had responded to her text by the time she enters the shower, saying she’s completely okay with moving things back by a half an hour.

 

Tobin still rushes through her routine, giving up patience when she was just over halfway done with drying her hair and instead brings the ziplock full of makeup she’d brought with her to sit down in front of the full length mirror to start doing her makeup. When she sits down and realizes she forgot to dampen her beauty blender she shrugs at herself, too tired to get up, will it really kill me to put foundation on with a dry beauty blender? Probably not.

 

So she gets to work, doing her routine look she normally does when she’s got something she wants to look a little better for, a light coverage foundation, a little bronzer where Allie had taught her to put so she doesn’t look like a ghost, eyeliner, and mascara. She skips her lipgloss because she’s really not sure if her and Christen are picking up where they left off in LA or just genuinely catching up.

 

Satisfied with her face, she finishes putting on her clothes, glad that she’s the only one left so that nobody makes fun of her or questions the lacey Free People halter bralette she clips behind her back that gets hidden under the shirt she slides on. Stepping into her shoes as she double checks to make sure that everything has made it back into her locker, her dirty training clothes are in the basket at the other end of the room, and her warmups for tomorrow, cleats, and shin guards are all where they need to be, she decides it’s time to leave.

 

The car ride is short but she plays some The Head and the Heart on the way, humming along as she parks her car in the parking lot. Before she knows it, her hand is knocking on the door and the door is opening and Christen’s wide smile is beaming in her face.

 

“Tobin!” Christen shouts a little louder than necessary, but Tobin laughs at the endearment as the other girl’s arms encircle her neck and she can feel her cheek touching her own as she wraps her own arms around the other girl's waist, “You smell so good.”

 

“I’d hope so, I just took a shower,” Tobin’s head pulls back but Christen’s arms are still wrapped around her neck and their bodies are still flush against each other, Tobin’s arms keeping her pulled in tight, “You look beautiful.”

“Thanks,” Christen finds her hand tangling unconsciously in Tobin’s hair, and she’s surprised to find some of the lower layers a little damp, “You don’t look so bad yourself.”

 

And with that Christen drops her arms and takes a step back from Tobin, leading them drag down her arms to her hands, giving them a slight squeeze before their bodies completely separate.

 

“Sorry about my hair, no point trying to do anything with it if it’s going to be raining all day,” Christen’s back is to her now, as she slides open the door of the wardrobe to pull her rain jacket and boots out, “You ready to go?”

 

“Yeah,” Tobin sighs, taking in Christen’s whole body as she turns around. Her hair is wild and curlier than Tobin has ever seen it, and her black rain coat matches well with her black jeans and rainboots, on top of her tucked in black and white striped tee and dark gray chunky cardigan. As she turns around to grab an umbrella, Tobin seizes her hand, “No, absolutely not.”

 

Christen gives her an incredulous look, almost daring her to challenge back, “It’s just an umbrella Tobin.”

 

“Christen people are going to think we’re tourists if you bring that thing with you,” Tobin gestures to the jacket she has on anyway, “You have a hood anyway. Let’s go.”

 

She laughs as she tucks her wallet and phone into the pockets of her jacket, “I’ll abandon the umbrella, just for you. But news flash, I am a tourist.”

 

“Not when you’re with me,” Tobin smiles brightly at the banter they’ve got going on, opening the door and holding it while Christen follows her out. The smile on her face certainly doesn’t droop when Christen loops her arm through Tobin’s, her thumb rubbing gentle circles on her bicep as they ride the elevator down.

 

-

 

“Didn’t tag you as an Audi kinda person Heath,” Christen mentions as she walks to meet Tobin on the other side of the car they’d just stepped out of. Tobin is waiting for her, the light rain not affecting the pace of her movements even in the slightest.

 

Tobin shrugs at her statement, “I’ve been thinking of trading it in.”

 

“Really?” Christen can feel Tobin’s hand on the small of her back, keeping her close and guiding her past the actual Waffle Window (they’d decided to eat inside because of the rain) and to the door just past. Christen can feel her body ease as the heat of the inside begins to seep through her body, “Why?”

 

“I don’t know,” Tobin seems very noncommittal with her response as they follow the hostess to be seated, “Kinda got it because my parents always drove similar cars, it’s only a couple years old so it probably has some value left to it. I kind of want something a little bigger, maybe something I could more comfortably take camping and has more space for me to fit all my soccer stuff, I don’t know. Superficial reasons.”

 

“I don’t think so,” Christen shakes her head as she stares down at her menu, browsing through options, “If you’re living out here all the time and that’s what you want to do, I think you should go for it.”

 

“Yeah, we’ll see,” Tobin nods, considering it but it’s something she has barely given much consideration to, “But enough about my car, what are you doing here?”

 

“Eating waffles with you,” Christen gives her a cheeky smile with a giggle at her poor attempt at being funny as Tobin closes her menu and smiles up at her, “But actually, I called you because I wanted to talk about that.”

 

“Hmm,” Tobin nods at her to continue, a bit confused about why Christen would need to talk to her about this.

 

“We’re considering expanding up here,” Christen is fidgeting with her napkin, “By considering, I actually mean it’s a done deal. That’s why I’m here, I’m making a final decision on our Portland locations. I just finished up in Seattle and San Francisco too.”

 

“Wow, Chris,” Tobin’s eyes widen at the revelation, a smile spreading across her face, even though she doesn’t know Christen all that well, she does know that Christen has had a hard time dealing with the demand and how quickly her cycling studios have been growing, and how she’s had a difficult time stepping away from being more involved to strictly moving into an executive position, “That’s so exciting, if I wasn’t in preseason I’d take you out for drinks, or buy you some champagne or something.”

 

“Maybe I’ll hold you on a rain check or something for the champagne,” Christen winks at her from across the table, “But that’s not it.”

 

“Okay, shoot,” Tobin motions for her to keep going.

 

“I might be moving here,” Christen gives Tobin a soft smile as she fidgets a little across the table, “For a year or so. Maybe longer if things go well, I don’t know, we’ll see. Just since Seattle is so close to here, the plane rides would be pretty short to both Seattle and San Francisco, it just kinda makes sense rather than staying in LA while we do this.”

 

“Okay,” Tobin can feel her stomach constricting, mostly because she thought she didn’t stand a chance with Christen and she had kind of given up on any prospect of her being more than a friend with benefits when she was single in LA, but this new development may have given her a little bit of hope, “Cool.”

 

“I’m looking at apartments tomorrow,” Christen tries to read Tobin through her eyes, but isn’t really sure what Tobin’s thoughts are, “I guess, I was just, I mean you can say no, but I was wondering, when I move, if you wanted to give this a shot? You don’t have to give me an answer right now, I know I kind of sprung this on you, but I just thought I’d put it out there in the Universe.”

 

Tobin chuckles lightly at Christen’s stuttering, but this is something she needs to think about longer than just over waffles. She’d be lying if she said Christen didn’t have some sort of affect over her that she hadn’t felt before. She’d never necessarily felt like she could be so blatantly honest with someone before who seemed to understand her, someone who lived such a no bullshit sort of life, someone who told her it was okay to be herself, “You know, I might need some time to think about it, and I think we should talk about it a little more or go out a few more times after you move here, but I think that’s where we should start.”

 

Christen’s smile is subtle, but standing, and she lets out a breath, “I think that’d be great. Also, I’m sorry for springing that on you, I just didn’t want to tell you over the phone or text.”

 

“Remember when I said we’re going to have to stop apologizing over every little thing we do? We’re really going to have to stop that,” Tobin laughs, trying to lighten the mood that had dipped a little over the past few minutes, “And I wouldn’t have wanted to hear that over the phone, I’m glad you told me in person.”

 

“I figured as much,” Christen reaches her hand across the table to squeeze Tobin’s, her hands are a lot colder than she’d expected them to be, “But also I want to hear about you, how your Christmas and the past two months have been?”

 

“Oh man,” Tobin shakes her head lightly, “Where do I even begin?”

 

“How about right where we left off?” Christen asks, squeezing her hand that she’s still got a grip on.

 

Tobin nods, shaking her head in agreement, “I suppose that would be a good place to start, wouldn’t it?”

 

Tobin dives straight in, telling Christen about her road trip with her brother, how they went fishing and she made a complete fool out of herself, and about her sister getting engaged, and visiting her other sister and her nephew. She makes it halfway through telling Christen about how her mom was really concerned when she said she needed to spend some time by herself and get things organized before the season started when the waitress interrupted them, apologizing for taking so long and taking their drink and waffle orders.

 

When Tobin finishes telling Christen the abridged version of Olympic Qualifiers and was able to express her concerns about teammates and coaches without offending anyone she shifts the topic of conversation to Christen. After all, Christen has had her fair share of exciting events happening. Tobin can’t help but feel warm inside listening to Christen talk about all the recent developments, how excited she was to have one of her college students take over as LA manager of her studios upon his graduation in the spring and what her upcoming timeline would look like, she wanted to be moved in by late March if possible, early April at the latest, so that she could oversee the design of the stores as well as starting to hire new employees as soon as possible. She also was excited that she’d have her most senior instructor traveling from studio to studio as they opened to train and help oversee the hiring of their new instructors.

 

That’s how Tobin and Christen once again don’t even realize that they’ve spent two hours in a waffle shop, with half of Tobin’s food left uneaten and Christen stealing small bites off the side of her plate.

 

“Do you have to be anywhere tonight?” Christen looks out the window, the sun is setting and it’s getting a bit dark outside and she doesn’t want to keep Tobin from any potential plans she might have.

 

“Nowhere you aren’t going to be,” Tobin uses her napkin to wipe her face one more time, glancing at her phone for the time, it’s nearing five and Tobin originally had wanted to take Christen up to Pittock mansion to get a view of the city before she’d had to push their day back a little but she’s not sure they would make it before sunset at this point so maybe they could move that back to tomorrow, or a different date at a later time.

 

“Well, anywhere we should go Ms. Portland?” Tobin watches as Christen pokes her waffle with a fork, “Do you not like waffles?”

 

“I do, I just figured maybe I shouldn’t completely destroy my diet during preseason,” She smiles weakly, feeling bad but she’s paying for the meal anyways so it really doesn’t matter, “I wanted to take you up to a good viewpoint of the city, but I don’t think we’ll be able to see much with the sun setting and the rain.”

 

Christen looks genuinely a little disappointed over the conclusion but nods in agreement, “Yeah, probably not. That’s a bummer, I love a good view.”

 

“We can do it some other time,” Tobin offers and watches as Christen nods in agreement, “I don’t know if you’re into books but I could show you Powell’s or something, I didn’t really have a back up plan, otherwise I could just take you back to the hotel or we could go to my apartment or something?”

 

Tobin watches as the corner of Christen’s mouth lifts in a smirk, “I’m sure the bookstore is lovely and all but I bet it doesn’t have a bed as comfortable as yours is.”

 

Tobin licks her bottom lip subconsciously at the way that Christen is looking at her, and she’s never wanted her bill to come back quicker in her entire life, “Okay, my apartment it is then.”

 

She can feel Christen’s knee bump hers under the table, “Sounds good to me.”

 

-

 

The moment that Tobin feels Christen’s lips re-attach to hers for the first time is when the elevator door is about half way closed after they stepped into her apartment complex. Her arms are wrapped tight around Christen’s neck and Christen’s fingers are digging into her side, underneath her top when the elevator doors open again much too quickly for Tobin’s liking. She takes Christen’s hand to lead her down the hallway and as she’s digging through her bag for her apartment key, she feels Christen kissing down the side of her neck as she brushes all of her hair over her opposite shoulder. Her hands wrap around her waist as she pulls her body so that her front is flush against Tobin’s back, distracting her from the keys task. From somewhere down the hall, she hears her neighbors door click open and shut again as Christen sighs from behind her and loosens her body slightly but still keeping connected to Tobin. Luckily Tobin finds her keys before the disruption is too lengthy and Christen finds that this time it is herself that is being pushed up against Tobin’s front door.

 

Tobin is wasting no time it seems this round, flicking the lights on to illuminate the room as she separates from the brief makeout session they’d had against the door. She slides her shoes off and points down to Christen’s boots, “You might as well take those off yourself, there’s no way I’ll be able to make taking those off look sexy.”

 

Christen giggles as she puts her hand on Tobin’s arm, grasping it for balance as she tugs off her boots. She makes a mental note to herself not to wear those again when she is in a rush to have sex. Christen barely has time to look around and observe Tobin’s living spaces in her apartment before she’s being dragged around a corner to a bedroom and is pushed down onto a bed with an “umph.” She brings her legs up to wrap around Tobin’s upper thighs, just below her butt as she leans up on her forearms to watch Tobin pull her own shirt over her head.

 

She sinks backwards into the bed as Tobin leans back over, reconnecting their mouths shortly as their hands roam over curves shortly before Tobin decides that she has had enough apparently. Her hands drift immediately to Christen’s jeans, gently pressing open the button and unzipping them, she yanks her skinnies down her legs as gently as possible. Christen is left in her carefully selected thong but still has her cardigan and tshirt on as Tobin leans back up to her mouth, rocking her hips gently through Christen’s straddling legs. She feels that her shirt is being pushed up as Tobin’s mouth starts making its way from her collarbone, toward her shoulder, and down the line of her shirt, over her exposed cleavage.

 

Christen has enough willpower between a couple of moans to mutter the word “off”, which Tobin reacts to almost immediately, moving away from Christen’s body so she had enough room for Tobin to lift the shirt up over her head and before she has time to think, Christen feels Tobin’s hands unclasping the back of her bra as well, and just like that she’s almost completely naked in Tobin’s dark room illuminated from the light coming through the open door.

 

Christen’s eyes are closed as Tobin is moving up and down her body, nipping, and sucking, and kissing, different areas of her chest and torso, so Christen is unprepared and unsuspecting for when Tobin slips her hand down between her legs. Letting out a louder moan than the small ones she’d been letting escape in the privacy of Tobin’s home earlier. She squirms a little under the firm touch of Tobin’s left hand but doesn’t get very far with Tobin’s other hand grasped on her hip and holding her down with a bruising force.

 

As if she wasn’t already breathless and wet, she feels herself come even more undone when she feels Tobin’s mouth descend on her, suddenly matching pace with a finger she’d slid into her as well. Christen is finding it more and more difficult to control the lower half of her body as Tobin picks up her pace, before slowing down, and picking back up again every time she feels like she’s about to hit the edge, before she finally does. Tobin rides out her orgasm with her, not abandoning her body until it’s still and she’s catching her breath. Only then does she feel Tobin on top of her, letting her body press down into hers with her legs straddled over her stomach.

 

When Christen feels like she can move again, as Tobin is kissing her deeper and harder than she thinks she’s ever felt someone kiss her before, she lets her hands wander from Tobin’s cheeks where they’d been resting, down her neck, and over her shoulders. When Tobin pulls back quickly for a breath, Christen turns her face so that when she returns, eyes still closed, she only finds her cheek, and Christen mutters, “Fuck, do you still have almost all your clothes on?”

 

Tobin laughs against her cheek, nodding slightly, “Yeah.”

 

She can feel the lace of her bra askew and not quite covering her breasts, left that way when Christen had her hands running up and down her but not quite having the time to separate so she could take it off. Christen’s hands are pushing forcefully from the spot they were laying so Tobin leans back so she’s standing again, letting Christen unclip her bralette behind her back. She sighs as she’s sitting at just the perfect height with Tobin standing above her to nip at Tobin’s chest gently while she fumbles with the button of her jeans. Once she achieves this, she leans back, motioning for Tobin to finish the task and watches as she slides her jeans down her legs. Tobin was not expecting for Christen to stand up, as she shoves any of the remaining garments of clothing from the bed onto the floor before she spins Tobin around and motions for her to move back completely on the bed, unlike Tobin’s kneeling position she’d just taken Christen from, she watches as Christen starts at her ankle, kissing up her bruised legs, through the inside of her thigh, out and around her hip bone, and back up to her chest and finally her mouth, Tobin already feels like a goner.

 

-

 

Christen is unsure about a lot of things when she wakes up tucked in gray sheets that smell distinctly a lot like sex. She’s unsure of what time it is, why she feels so disoriented, why she’s so hungry, and whether or not she peed before she fell asleep.

 

She rolls over, Tobin’s arm isn’t slung over her like it had been when she’d fallen asleep, and neither is her body pressed against her back from chest to toe, but she can feel Tobin’s foot pressed into the bed as her own rests against it.

 

“I didn’t wake you with the light, did I?” Tobin nudges her glasses up her nose a little, she doesn’t like to wear them that often for the exact reason that they’re a little too heavy and slide down her nose too easily. She lets her pen rest in the crease of the leather bound journal she’d been holding as she looks into Christens currently green eyes.

 

“No,” Christen shakes her head, admiring the way that Tobin looks with messy sex hair, glasses, and a sheet pulled up to her chest and tucked under her armpits as Christen secures she sheet under her own arms a little more, “What are you doing?”

 

“Just a little journaling,” Tobin adjusts the pillows after she finishes leaning over to her bedside table to drop her journal back down where she always leaves it.

 

“I didn’t know that you journal,” Christen reaches her hand under the sheets to Tobin’s stomach, rubbing it gently through the sheets, “What do you write about, if you don’t mind me asking?”

 

“No, I,” Tobin bites her lip gently, she’s never really told anyone what exactly she writes about, but she thinks that maybe she should just be completely open and honest with Christen if she’s considering giving this a chance, “I, uh, write about a lot of things. Mostly anything exciting that happens in my day, sometimes subjective things about soccer like my teammates or coaches or something, sometimes I devo, sometimes my feelings, goals that I have, I don’t know, anything really. I was actually just food logging for the day so I don’t forget to send it to my trainers for my diet adjustments.”

 

Christen nods at her and shoots Tobin that playful smile she gets sometimes when she thinks she’s being funny, “You’re not logging your orgasms to send to your trainers too, are you? You don’t have like a quota or anything going into the Olympics?”

 

Tobin chokes out a laugh at that one, she knows Christen’s joking but responds anyway, “No, they don’t track our orgasms. I was actually just writing down that my coach asked me to captain the team today.”

 

She jolts as she feels Christen pinch one of her abs before circling comfortingly over the area again, “Tobin! You should have told me that at dinner! That’s so exciting!”

 

“It’s not a big deal really, it’s just temporary while our actual captain is out with an injury,” Tobin shrugs, as if the excitement inside isn’t that big, “I just have never really been asked to captain a team before. I’ve only captained high school club and college teams before, and mostly just because I was a senior so they assumed it was my job.”

 

“Tobin, it doesn’t matter if it’s temporary or not,” Christen shakes her head at her, “You should be proud of yourself, that’s a big deal, hell I’m proud of you.”

 

“You are?” Tobin forces eye contact with her.

 

“Of course Tobs,” Christen is giggling again with a small smile, “I can see how much it means to you. Your smile and your eyes do not hide as much as you may think they do.”

 

She slumps a little closer to Christen as she moves closer to her, Tobin tosses the extra pillow she’d used to support her back while writing so that Christen can move so that she’s flush against her body, “Do you have any food?”

 

Tobin laughs and rubs the hand she’d snuck around Christen’s back gently, “Lucky for you, I just went to the grocery store yesterday.”

 

-

 

Christen was actually very hungry so there wasn’t much fooling around when they got out of bed. They found themselves eating fresh fruit out of a bowl, mixed with granola, chia seeds, and greek yogurt on the couch just before 9 when Tobin’s phone rang.

 

Christen can see Tobin rolling her eyes as she picks up the phone, mouthing a sorry to her quickly while it connects, “Yo, what’s up?”

 

She can only catch Tobin’s end of the conversation, her phone too quiet for her to hear but from what little she does hear, she is very confused.

 

“No, I don’t have any bandaids. I used them all for my knee, sorry.”

 

“You didn’t cut yourself again, did you?”

 

“I have duct tape, or painters tape, no masking tape that though.”

 

“Okay, yeah come on down.”

 

“My friend is going to come down,” Tobin pushes their shared blanket off of her lap as she stands up, “I’m going to go find the tape she needs really quickly. She’ll only be here for like a minute.”

 

“That’s fine,” Christen states as she tries to scrape the edges of the bowl she’d been eating out of, “But Tobin?”

 

“Yeah?” She can hear Tobin shout from the other side of the partial wall in her apartment.

 

“You may want to put your hair up or something,” Christen had shoved her almost unruly hair, both from the sex and the rain, into some sort of bun already, but Tobin’s was free and messier than she’d probably care for it to be when her friend was coming around when there was another woman she didn’t know sitting on the couch wearing her UNC sweatshirt and Nike leggings.

 

“Thanks,” Tobin mutters as she quickly pulls her hair up into a messy bun after she finishes digging her tape out of the back of one of her desk drawers. Almost immediately after, there’s a hard knocking on the door, “Damn she’s fast.”

 

Christen can hear the door unlock and she looks in that direction. There are two girls with similar haircuts standing with Tobin in her doorway and Christen can hear their laughter and banter from her spot. She turns her attention back to her bowl, not really knowing what to do when suddenly one of the girls says something about a knife and they’re making their way past the couch to the kitchen as Tobin rifles through one of the drawers.

 

Tobin points in Christen’s direction on the way, “Kling, Brit, that’s Christen. Christen, this is Meghan and Brit, they played with me in college.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” Christen holds up her hand in a wave.

 

“You too,” The blond one greets back, and Christen is really not sure which one she is, Brit or Kling but decides not to say anything.

 

“Now, I swear to God if either one of you cuts yourself with this bread knife it’s not my fault,” Tobin warns before placing the knife in the brunette’s hand, “And if there’s any blood on it I expect it to be bleached before return.”

 

“You got it,” The smaller one with an infectious laugh agrees, “We’ve got business to do so we’ll go now. Bye Christen, nice to meet you and nice shirt.”

 

Christen blushes as she watches the girls walk by, “You too.”

 

“Well they definitely don’t know that we just had sex, do they?” Tobin jokes as she falls back on the couch beside Christen, taking her empty bowl and placing it on the coffee table in exchange of pushing Christen over so that she could spoon her.

 

Christen laughs as she feels Tobin’s arm pull her close and she starts to regulate her breath, “Oh, definitely not.”

 

-

 

Tobin wakes up with Christen the next morning, back in her bed, naked with arms wrapped around her body. She sighs as she rolls over, feeling the muscles of her body contract as she gently kisses Christen’s cheeks in an effort to wake her up.

 

It’s raining out so they agree to postpone sightseeing until Christen officially moves in. She does take Christen to coffee though, where they sat and continued to catch up over a mid-morning brunch.

 

They agree again to grab dinner that night, after which Christen ends up staying the night at Tobin’s once again. The next day, they both have to leave early and Tobin drops Christen off at her hotel before her eight AM training begins so Christen has plenty of time to make it to meet a realtor by ten. They’re able to grab dinner one more time after that before Christen leaves, but by that time she’s signed leases for both their Portland location and an apartment for herself, with a move in date set for two weeks later.

 

And so Tobin is sad to see her go that last morning she drops her off at the hotel, but knows that it’s not for long.

-

 

“Do you ever feel like everyone you know is getting married?” Tobin asks her over the phone, the day after she’d left Portland she’d gotten a call from Tobin around dinner time to ask her how her day was, and every day since she’d gotten a similar call.

 

Christen laughs, “I think I was a bridesmaid four times last year, my sister included.”

 

“My best friend Allie asked me to be one of her maid of honors last year,” Tobin is chopping some vegetables on her counter for the chicken stir fry she’s going to make herself, “My other best friend Alex is going to fly here for two days because she thinks she’s found her dress but wants us to see it first. But honestly Chris, I don’t know how I keep finding myself in this situation, I’m a horrible maid of honor. I know nothing about wedding dresses, and bridesmaid dresses, and bachelorette parties, and flowers, and venues, and seating charts, and-”

 

“Woah, woah, woah, slow down there cowboy,” Christen states as she’s prepping her own meal, stirring some meat on the stovetop for tacos, “I’m sure it’s just because you’re an awesome friend from what I can tell, and your friends want you involved in their big days. I think you should be honored.”

 

“Thanks, but I’m like the worst bridesmaid ever,” Christen can tell Tobin is holding something back from the other side of the phone, “Especially after the last few months, I’ve been having a hard time mustering enough excitement.”

 

“Mhmm,” Christen mutters, feeling like there’s something that Tobin wants to say but is a little bit hesitant about.

 

“Can I be honest with you about something real quick Chris?”

 

“Of course Tobin,” Christen nods her head, even though she knows Tobin can’t see it through the speaker.

 

“A couple months ago I got out of a pretty long relationship with one of my teammates from Paris,” She says it really quietly, and Christen is not sure if there’s more she wants to say at the moment but she does start to connect the pieces about Tobin with this extra tidbit of information, the whole Paris thing, the weird funk she seemed to be in when they first met that’s not so evident now, how she was feeling abandoned as her best friend left her to live with her husband, it was starting to click now. “We’d been together for like three years, and we just couldn’t make the distance work anymore. I haven’t really talked much about this with, anyone really, because I was trying to be happy for everyone but seeing everyone move on kind of felt like being kicked while I was down.”

 

“I bet,” Christen is not really sure what to say or do, but is glad that Tobin is talking to her about this, “Thanks for telling me Tobs, it really kinda connects a lot of pieces about you.”

 

“I wasn’t sure if it was too early to tell you about my last relationship, but I feel like you should know, given what you said when I left LA,” Tobin clarifies, “I don’t think I knew it back then, but I took your advice to really sit down and think, and it worked really well for me I think.”

 

Christen’s not sure she’s heard anyone be so honest about their feelings to her and it makes her heart simultaneously swell and hurt for Tobin, in the few days they’ve been doing this she feels like she’s grown a bit too attached a bit too quickly for her liking, but Tobin is intoxicating, and she doesn’t want to think about Tobin being sad or lonely without telling anyone, “I’m glad, I didn’t think it would help that much.”

 

“I think I needed some time to sit down and think about what I wanted, you know after soccer and stuff,” Tobin’s food is sizzling in the background at this point, “I think I’m going to tell them tomorrow.”

 

“About how you were feeling?”

 

“Well, yeah,” Tobin hesitates a little again, “But also, about us, whatever this is. I haven’t exactly been open to them about it, they don’t really know anything past what happened on the first date we went on. I wrote down in my journal that one of my goals for this year is to be more open with my friends, and I think that’d be a good place to start.”

 

“I think that sounds like a great place to start too,” She’s doing that thing where she nods through the phone again, “Plus I’m honored to get to friend gossiping status with you. Will you give me a good sex rating when talking to them?”

 

Tobin can’t resist her laugh at Christen’s statement, and she’s almost sure she’s doing that half sideways smirk again, “I only tell my friends the truth Chris.”

 

Christen makes a tsk sound over the voice, continuing with her teasing over the phone, “Which is?”

 

“That you have a mighty talented tongue Ms. Press.”

 

“Tobin!” Christen shouts back in response over the phone, losing herself in a fit of giggles.

 

-

 

Tobin finds herself late, a habit she’d been looking to also kick in the new year, to coffee with Alex and Allie the next morning. The duo are already sitting and chatting in their favorite booth, and Tobin almost feels a little bit of deja vu seeing Alex sitting at that table again as she sends a wave over while standing in the short line to order her coffee. Her thumbs are twirling as she waits, one of her nervous habits on full display.

 

Alex gives her a big hug before she slides into the table, she’s glad that the three of them can be together, once again, just like old times, “What’s up? What are you guys talking about?”

 

Allie shrugs a little, “We were talking about the dress but I didn’t want to spoil it or talk it up before you guys see it in case you don’t like it, then we moved on to party favor ideas.”

 

“Cool,” Tobin studies their faces for a moment before speaking back up again, “On a scale of one to losing to Canada, how annoyed would you be if we talked about something other than weddings and soccer for a little bit?”

 

“Not at all,” Alex’s hoarse voice rasps out, while Allie says, “What’s up Harry?” right after.

 

“Well, there’s a few things that I wanted to tell you guys,” She’s staring down at the lid of her coffee cup like it’s the Mona Lisa or something, “I guess to just spit it out, I’m going to start seeing someone.”

 

Alex’s hand slaps her bicep and she winces a little, while Allie’s mouth drops a little and she lets out a loud “Tobin!”

 

“Guys, calm down,” She hisses at them, “It’s like really new, don’t get so excited.”

 

“Is this where you ran away to in January?” Allie prods, and Alex nods in agreement. “Yeah, spill the deets Tobs, how’d you meet her? When? Where?”

 

“No, I was here by myself in January, why does everyone have such a hard time believing that?” She mutters under her breath, “You guys are going to kill me but, remember that girl from the coffee shop in LA? Christen?”

 

“Tobin,” Alex’s voice is just as exasperated but in a different, lower tone this time, “What the hell?”

 

“Will you guys listen for just a second?” She clarifies, trying to not get riled up, knowing that her friends will do enough of that for the three of them and she doesn’t need to join, “I sort of met up with her a couple more times, and we slept together before I left.”

 

Alex holds her hand up for a high five from Allie with a smirk on her face.

 

“And then we didn’t talk until she called me during Olympic Qualifiers,” Tobin can see their heads perk up in confusion, “She told me she was going to be in Portland last week, long story short we met up and then she told me that she was moving here for work, and we agreed to give it a shot.”

 

“Is that who you were making out with in the hallway last week?” Allie looks genuinely confused, “She didn’t look like the girl we met in LA, but to be fair I don’t really remember her that much.”

 

“Her hair was a lot curlier than it was in LA,” Tobin responds before she falters a bit, “Hey! You never told me you saw us in the hallway.”

 

Allie shrugs with her signature smirk on her face, “I didn’t know anything was going on, I thought you were just maybe hooking up with someone or something. For as much as I know you were dry as a desert in the sex department the last few months.”

 

Tobin sighs yet again out of desperation as she looks at her friends.

 

“So you really like this girl?” Alex asks her as Tobin fiddles with her coffee cup once again.

 

“Yeah,” Tobin smiles, “I haven’t really done this before, you know, I’ve never dated anyone completely separate from soccer, I think it’s a good thing.”


“Well then,” Allie leans down onto her elbows after pushing her sleeves up slightly like she’s getting ready to do some dirty work, “Let’s hear more, spill it all Heath.”

Chapter Text

Summer has a slow start. Like a really slow start.

 

Christen had left early March, with the promises of returning soon to a furnished apartment and a blank canvas of a studio. Over the never ending string of phone calls, that she’d quickly gotten addicted to, she’d offered to help Christen with moving whatever she needed into the apartment but truth be told there wasn’t much that needed to be done. Since it was already furnished Christen had packed lightly, choosing to bring a couple of boxes of clothes and to just buy toiletries, kitchen supplies, and things like hangers and storage bins when she arrived. Trying to limit the amount of stuff she brought with her to fitting in her car so that she and her father could drive from LA to Portland together was relatively easy since she was going to have to leave her dogs behind with her parents for this stint.

 

Cody coming with her had meant that she vehemently denied Tobin’s offers to come over to move boxes, assist with moving furniture around to her pleasing, or just offer any support with the process. Christen had stated many times that it was extremely unnecessary for Tobin to meet anyone in her family yet, especially her father, and that she didn’t want to complicate their budding unofficial romance or push things to happen so quickly. Ultimately, Tobin obeyed her request, saying that she’d be available between practices if needed but if she really didn’t want or need her help that she’d honor her request.

 

She’d received a call from Christen almost immediately after she was supposed to leave California. Despite the small amount of stuff she was bringing, it’d been a lot more work than she’d expected and she ended up asking for Tobin’s help, citing that Tobin probably had a lot more upper body strength than her and her father combined.

 

It had gone swimmingly actually. Boxes were unloaded from the car in the matter of an hour and they’d started to make a dent unpacking when Cody offered to treat them to lunch in honor of their hard work. He’d relied on Tobin for suggestions and she’d taken them for a late afternoon lunch at one of her favorite microbreweries after Cody had mentioned that he wanted to try some local brew before leaving the next morning back to LA.

 

Tobin guesses he’d had to make some promises to Christen about boundaries at some point on the long drive up because his personality seemed to be a little bit less intense than she’d imagined from Christen’s mentions of him in the background of stories of her childhood. The fiercely protective father who’d been furious after Christen’s older homecoming date her freshman year of high school had gotten caught trying to sneak alcohol in a water bottle before they’d even entered the venue was hidden behind the mask of a smile and questions about the logistics of Tobin’s job. The silly man who’d made it his mission to embarrass his three daughters as much as possible was hidden behind a mask of easy professionalism that honored her biggest achievements. However, the family man who adored the four most important women in his life shined through bright and clear, he spoke of how proud he was to have walked his oldest daughter down the aisle just a few months ago, his eyes glimmered talking about sending all three of his daughters to only the best of the best universities in the nation, and he probably would never shut up about Christen’s budding business if Christen didn’t nudge him under the table with her knee every time he praised her just a little too much.

 

His stay is short and he spends the night in Christen’s spare bedroom after they bid Tobin goodbye to go buy some new sheets at West Elm. With such little time since their arrival to unpack, by the time Tobin comes over the next day she boggles down and helps Christen with everything that needs to be unboxed, writes lists of things she needs for the kitchen and bathrooms, and cleans any and all surfaces Christen requests. By the time they call it quits for the day it’s nearing nine at night and it’s not hard at all hard to convince Christen to put down some hangers and push back the freshly washed sheets on her bed.

 

The ecstasy of Christen’s first week in Portland fades quickly when Tobin needs to run off for three weeks of consecutive away games in Boston, New York, and Orlando before they return to train at home and bus to Seattle for a fourth away game. Despite the promises of more dates and time to get to know each other before diving into the label of a relationship, it itches at the back of Tobin’s brain before they leave and she decides to bite the bullet to just ask Christen if they can put some sort of label on what they’re doing so she can have some peace of mind before leaving.

 

So they label it, finally making it official the night before Tobin jets off to the other side of the country for a few weeks.

 

Boston and New York are a grind, it’s cold still and the wind bites at her bare legs in the dark of their night games. She shares hotel rooms with a lot of different people that aren’t Christen but she wishes were. Each city she finds herself with someone knew, sometimes requested, sometimes not. The days drag on it feels like, but the nights drag on longer because she knows that Christen is always still awake for another few hours after she forces her eyes to close in beds that grow more uncomfortable with every night.

 

Orlando can’t come soon enough. Two weeks is more than enough for her to prepare for the drilling that Allie has been holding off on until they’re reunited with Alex and as a favor in return she at least attempts to help Allie to her best capabilities with the wedding planning. They learn her skill set is best applied to non-creative tasks so she helps with what she can on the road and even entertains Allie’s wedding magazine flipping on the bus ride from Boston to New York.

 

In the moment, with what she has readily available, nothing can beat the warm Florida sun beating into her skin and the sounds of a dog swimming in the pool. Allie and Alex have been respecting her space for once as she seems happy and content to lay in her tank top while catching some rays and they talk amongst themselves.

 

It’s weird how much and how quickly Alex’s life has changed. It’s weird that this is her home now, their expansive two story home complete with pool and fenced yard space for their new dog. It’s weird that she’s assembled a cheese plate and fruit bowl with the new china they’d splurged on and is treating them like guests rather than roommates. And admittedly it’s a little weird for her to think how much power Alex has and that she had the capabilities to get all of this to work out.

 

For as much as she likes hearing the dull voices of Allie and Alex chatting in the background like they did when they lived together she does selfishly wish a little bit that they’d asked, that they’d pried, but she also likes that they’re respecting her privacy and letting her initiate conversations about her private life now.

 

Christen calls her a little unexpectedly, normally Tobin initiates their daily phone call because her schedule is usually more rigidly sporadic and she knows that if she sticks to relatively similar times from day to day that Christen will usually be available. She can tell that Allie and Alex are pretending not to listen in on the conversation that she’s having, that they’re not picking up that she’d already given Christen a key to her apartment as she lets Christen know that she does in fact have a curling iron that she can borrow until she finds out about the warranty on her one that apparently just broke. She can’t really tell if Alex and Allie are listening in on her conversation as she asks Christen if they’d figured out the problem with the speaker system at the studio so that they’d be able to start moving equipment in without having to worry about a team of men drilling holes into the wall during the process. Christen’s answers about work are always brief but all encompassing and Tobin tries to do the same with her own about soccer practices, since Christen’s a bit of a novice when it comes to the soccer world she can get away with just saying that she was having an off day with passing or shooting and Christen just sympathizes with her and doesn’t ask any deeper questions which she actually really appreciates. It lets her separate her life on the field from her life off the field for just about the first time in her life and it’s almost a bit freeing knowing that when she’s frustrated or upset about something that there’s someone else to listen and sympathize with her and then she can go and focus on something else.

 

Instead they talk about her impending return, about Christen coming over with beer and some homemade chili per Christen’s mom’s recipe since it’s supposed to be cold and rainy upon her arrival. They talk about their friends, Tobin asks how her instructor that had just moved in was adjusting and Christen asks not only about Allie and Alex but also the other teammates she’s mentioning more and more. She feels calm and at peace when she hangs up with Christen, not an impending worry of when they’ll see each other again or wondering what horrific time in the morning she’ll have to wake up at just in order to speak with her for a decent amount of time again.

 

She gets up to stretch and grab some snacks with a little side of human interaction before and sits back down at Alex’s patio table with her friends.

 

“So,” Allie scrapes some of the leftover guacamole against the edge of the bowl with her chip, “When do we get to meet this girl?”

 

Tobin shrugs and smirks at her, she’d been a little selfish before their cross country trek began and had almost exclusively spent the six days their time overlapped in Portland together, just the two of them, “I don’t know, you guys have been pretty nice to me recently so maybe I should  just bite the bullet while you’re in mood.”

 

Alex rolls her eyes at Tobin, “We’re always nice Tobin.”

 

“Okay, for one we’ll see after the game tomorrow,” Her smirk widens as Alex throws her balled up napkin at her but it falls short of even making it halfway across the table, “And two by nice I mean not pushy.”

 

Tobin thinks she may have pulled on some heartstrings or something there because Alex’s face falls almost as fast as Allie’s and any sort of lightheartedness in their usual three way banter spirit is quashed.

 

“Do you really think we’re pushy?” Allie says it in a way that was supposed to be careful and tender but it comes out panicked and higher pitched than her usual deep, slow tone.

 

“I mean,” Tobin briefly ponders lying on behalf of their emotions before she realizes that she can barely keep it together when talking about Santa Claus with her nephew and Ryan who probably don’t even understand the concept without feeling like the worst person to grace the face of the planet, “Maybe a little.”

 

“Tobin,” Alex groans as she pushes her face into her hands which is an expression hiding tactic that she hasn’t seen in awhile, “You should have told us. Ever since you hid what went down with Christen from us and we had no clue what to respond when Kling texted us-”

 

“Kling texted you?” Tobin cuts her off, not because she’s upset with Kling for apparently spilling the beans, but rather that it’s just not very Kling like to delve on personal life issues.

 

“Yeah, like a couple days before you told us about her,” Allie fills in, “She texted us asking who the hot girl with the curly brown hair was and where she could find one because your face was quote unquote glowing.”

 

“Was not!” Tobin’s a little defensive because she definitely wasn’t glowing but if she remembers correctly she was definitely feeling well sexed, a little giddy, and had just had a waffle with more sugar in it than she’d had probably since Christmas.

 

“Talk to Kling about that,” Allie holds up her hands innocently, “Not me.”

 

“This isn’t about Kling,” Alex is getting flustered a lot more than she would have anticipated, “This is about you Tobin.”

 

Tobin can feel her jaw moving but she’s not sure if her brain is telling it to clench or tremble. Sassy isn’t really a temperament she employs often, especially if you neglect what happens on the field, but today with their prompting tones mixed with her own pent up feelings, it might be the day it bursts out. She’s feeling brave today and she wishes that she had enough eyes so that she could look both of them in the eyes at the same time, “Fine then, yeah, you have been a bit pushy these past few months.

 

Alex looks a bit ashamed and Allie looks a bit sad but she hasn’t finished her piece yet.

 

“I mean, did you think about it?” As she begins to elaborate she can feel her braveness wearing out as the burning feeling she gets as her throat starts to close up that she usually gets before she’s about to cry starts to make its way upward, “Did you really think that the moment I got out of a three year relationship I just wanted to rebound with some rando we met at a bar? Or that it wasn’t that serious? Or that I didn’t have plans of my own?”

 

Tobin doesn’t know if she’s ever been that harsh with anyone in her life and she can feel herself start to ball up as she pulls her knees up to wrap her arms around, “Seriously though, did you realize that the path I was going down with my life had just taken a jackhammer to it? Because that’s what it felt like, and I want you guys and everyone else to be happy but Amy and Lauren are having kids, Allie’s getting married, you moved, even Perry is getting married, and everyone is taking one step forward and I just took five steps back.”

 

There it goes she thinks, a tear slips down her cheek and she sniffs, the point of no return “And all everyone is saying is ‘now you can focus on your career’ or ‘don’t you think it’s time to get back on the horse’ or ‘at least you got your World Cup’. It was horrible, it’s like everyone I know has been with their husbands since college and no one understood what it feels like to be almost thirty and have to start all over again. Everyone kept treating this like it was a blessing in disguise and like I’d have this sudden urge to just go out and like be wild and free or something. It’s not like I didn’t try, I didn’t have enough power to just be able to stay in Europe and not have to torture myself with long distance for a year. It’s not like I didn’t want to get married too.”

 

“Tobin, I-” She can see that Alex and Allie are trying to keep themselves together but failing, “We didn’t realize it was so bad.”

 

Tobin almost chokes as her nose starts to congest and she laughs cynically, because Amy and Lauren had caught on a lot earlier and had said almost the same thing before they started backing of with their pestering questions, “Why does everyone keep saying that? I get that I don’t talk about my feelings all that often but I literally spent every free moment I had in Paris. Do people really think that I would just spend three years with someone for shits and giggles? That I don’t have real feelings?”

 

She covers her own face with her hands, rubbing her forehead because she can already feel the crying headache hitting her, and also because these past few months have been possibly the most frustrating of her life.

 

“Of course we knew you had real feelings Tobin, and we knew that it was hard on you, but this is the most vulnerable you’ve been in front of us since you came out, maybe even ever,” Allie takes over now because Alex just looks more ashamed, “I just wish you would have told us.”

 

Laughing isn’t really appropriate anymore and that’s usually her coping mechanism to sweep her feelings under the rug, but now’s not the time, “What, and bring everyone around me down with me? Did you want me to tell you about how abandoned I feel because everyone is leaving? How I felt like I was being left in the dust as everyone retires and leaves to be with their husbands and then there’s just going to be me in my apartment alone?”

 

“Is that how you really felt Tobin?” Alex is biting her lip now and Tobin knows why. It’s because leaving for Orlando had been a no brainer for Alex. She could do what she wanted, if she wanted to leave Portland bad enough she could make that work because with Abby gone her stock was the highest on the national team and even if she tried to be humble about it, she still knew it was true. The way she’d explained it to Tobin was all about the future, how she was helping the league grow by getting an expansion team to open early, how she was going to be leaving the thorns in better shape than they’d ever been, and how she was going to finally finish her long distance marriage with Serv. Tobin understood the appeal, she really did, but somewhere mixed in with the breakup and the move, it’s like Alex forgot all the great memories they’d shared, how some of the best nights in her life were spent sitting around their shitty coffee table with beer, nachos, and a deck of cards while they talked and joked about anything and everything. It was almost like Alex was trading in a Subaru for a Tesla, except it was her life not a car, and she was forgetting about how that was the car she learned to drive in, how she hit a mailbox backing out of a driveway and had panicked about it but years down the line would laugh about, and that no matter how old it got it was just as reliable as it had been since she bought it. Even though Allie was still there, it’s not like every time she’s seen her over the past few months hasn’t been entirely centralized about her wedding and her future.

 

“Amy, Lauren, and I have always lived in different places, never lived in the same city, we’ve managed to do it before. This though, it’ll never be the same will it? We’ll never have what we did when we lived together, we’ll still be best friends, but we have to figure the new us out.”

 

“Well I think that Allie and I are in agreement that we’ll try to let you be open to us about your personal life on your own schedule,” Alex’s eyes glance at Allie’s for confirmation, “But you can’t bottle things up on our behalf. Friendships go two ways Tobs and we care about your well being, and I wish I had known all of this a lot sooner.”

 

-

 

Tobin had excused herself before bed to call Christen, even though she’d already spoken to her that day. She could feel the tears prick at her eye sockets again as she recounted the highlights of the conversation, asking for confirmation on whether or not she’d been too harsh. Christen assures her that it was the right thing to do, that sooner or later they needed to find out even if she’d moved on from that little segment of her life. It makes her feel a little better and she rushes Christen off the line so she can go out for drinks like she’d mentioned even though Christen assures her that she can stay on as long as she needs.

 

The silence in her and Allie’s room was foreign as they prepped for their afternoon game, there was no music pumping from Allie’s speakers, no pregame trash talk to get each other pumped, and no teasing from Allie about needing to get her lazy ass out of bed. Even though they’d talked it out, extensively at that, she still felt awkward and thought she maybe needed a couple hours in a different room from her best friend or something before she could feel the weight lift off her shoulders.

 

There’s probably a number of reasons why Tobin feels a little weird stepping on the field that day, her discussion with Alex and Allie is probably the largest but also the fact that she’d never played a game against Alex since they’d become best friends was probably a contributing factor. Still, she tries to psych herself up because she knows her mom and her boyfriend (which is still new to Tobin and was a little weird but made her really happy thinking about) had driven down for the game and would be waiting for her for drinks after the game.

 

She’s still trying to get into the speed of the game in the twenty-something minute and is trying to tell herself to calm down and focus when she’s being trailed by two players in purple. In the rush of her speed and the four arms reaching to go faster to pass her she gets tripped up and flies in the direction she’d been running, her elbow landing forcefully onto the turf beneath her, she can feel her pesky knee wound cutting open again, and the impact of her body against the ground is enough to make her feel like she’s going to have to hit the sideline before she reenters the game, and that’s all before she feels the crunch of a cleat on her hand.

 

The pain is excruciating, the force of a professional player and her cleats landing on top of her hand is more than enough that in the moment she overexaggerates in her brain, thinking that that’s it, there goes the Olympics even though she’s definitely played games with a cast before. Unlike when she’d had The Great Foot Injury That Shall Not Be Mentioned, where she similarly knew something was really wrong, this time her hand is shaking against her will as she shields her body and face against the ground, curling into a ball as much as she can. She thinks there’s no doubt that there’s some broken bones in there and she finds out the hard way that she does in fact have a few more tears to shed.

 

She can hear Allie and Alex’s voices behind her, knows the panicked look her mom is probably sporting in the stands, but none of it’s comforting. Allie is as aggressive as ever, yelling at the poor medical staff to get there faster, and Alex has her hand wrapped around her neck, with her thumb gently rubbing the sweat she’s sporting.

 

For a split second though, something hits her. She’s not worried about the game, or the ref reminding the medical staff that her three minutes of allowed non-concussion or head related injury time is running up and they need to get her to the sideline soon. She’s not worried about the score of the game. She’s not worried about the depth of the bench and the lack of adequate wingers they’d brought with.

 

For that split second she thinks about how she just wishes that Christen was there. That Christen was the one rubbing her back, preferably on the couch or in bed or something rather than in a stadium full of seven thousand people. She wishes that Christen was the one whispering to her that she was going to be okay instead of her medical staff as the pull her up by the waist. She wishes that Christen was there to tell her to get back up on her feet, take a minute to gather herself, and get back out there to kick some ass like she knew she would.

 

Instead of that scenario though, she keeps in spirit the positivity Christen exudes, her reminder that boundaries don’t exist when it comes to goals and ambitions. So she lets the medical staff examine her hand, tell her that it probably is broken because of the large bump swelling and the fact that she can’t move it, and insists that she’s fine to go back on the field, because her team needs her.

 

Somehow they fall for it because after almost seven minutes of playing one man down Mark lets her enter the game again, making her promise not to push herself too much and to signal for a sub if she needed it.

 

Over the past few months her game has exceeded anything it’s ever been before. Since Pinoe’s injury she’d picked up the pressure and thrived off of it, took everything she’d bottle up inside her and channeled it all on the field, all the extra time she’d had was spent refining her shooting (a portion of her game she’d readily admit was not great) and becoming a full 90’ player. Never once had she failed to meet the expectation her team and coaches put on her. This game, however, is possibly the worst game she’s played in years.

 

There’s some sort of communication issue, she’s not sure if her teammates aren’t calling for the ball or hearing her or what’s going on but if they can play in front of their home crowd and not have issues she’s not sure why they can’t seem to hear each other in a stadium that’s maybe one third full. Because of this, she finds herself making runs without any support up top, her connection problem with Kling is as evident as ever in this game, and her passes are atrocious. There’s a moment where she steps up to take a corner, she can barely pick up the ball with her hand to place it on the spot and uses her foot to adjust its positioning, and the second she swings her foot to make contact with the ball some sort of cramp rips down from the back of her knee to just above her ankle. She tries to run, then walk, it off but it doesn’t work. Rather pathetically she ends up reaching to the ground to try to stretch it out as the rest of her team (and the other team for that matter) runs towards the other end of the field and leave her in the dust. Mark is calling at her as the assistant coaches follow the rest of the game, but she realizes that reaching for the ground for her usual hamstring stretch is a huge mistake because she momentarily forgets about her hand and as soon as it touches the ground she’s rolling onto her side in pain again. When the ball gets kicked out next the refs call for the medical staff again, she gets pulled up by her elbows, and she’s off the field, this time for good.

 

Sitting on the sideline is by far her least favorite thing to do in the entire world. There’s something frustrating about your coach thinking you’re not good enough to help out a struggling team that will just nag in the back of your brain. She’s surprised when the ref calls the whistle for halftime because she thinks that with the hell her body feels like it has been through it should at least be seventy minutes into the game.

 

Instead of heading to the locker room with the rest of the team like she wants, she’s dragged into the trainer’s office where she lays down to get her leg massaged. Normally phones are a big no no in her mind, no matter if she’s playing in a game or on the sideline when it comes to halftime but her hand is itching to just text Christen because she thinks that it will just make her feel that much better.

 

-

 

The team manages to win, almost 2-0 before Alex musters up one of her wonder goals in the 91st minute to bring the game to a closer 2-1. Tobin still thinks the goal was offsides but she tries to let it go. Alex and Allie corner her after the game, even though she tries to hurry to the locker room as fast as she can with melting bags of ice hanging from her leg and hand. They try to mother her about her injuries but she can’t be bothered, then they try to convince her to come out for drinks before she reminds them that her mom’s here. Instead of trying to persuade her to just bring her mom with they just let her go, understanding that she probably needs a little bit of time to step away from the past 24 or so hours.

 

After their post-game talk from the coaching staff and she finally gets a moment she doesn’t even wait to rip off her sweaty clothes before she grabs her phone from her locker. She’s got a number of texts, her family group text has blown up with concerned messages, plus some from just her mom, Amy and Lauren of course, a couple other of her friends, and finally three from Christen.

 

Chris: Hope you’re alright, that hand looks bad :(

Chris: Give me a call when you can, can’t stop thinking about you

Chris: <3

 

Somehow the simplicity of the three text messages calms her slightly, she doesn’t even really feel her teammates clapping her on the back as they mill about celebrating the victory in the music of the locker room. They’ve got twenty minutes to get on the bus so she figures if she changes quickly she can sneak into the hallway for a few minutes.

 

Christen answers on the first ring and her voice is anxious, “Tobs? Are you okay? How’s your hand? Your leg?”

 

Words are stuck in her throat because no, she’s really not okay in that moment and she just wants to be home. She doesn’t want to bother with the next 18 hours before she can even leave and then has a day off that will probably be spent getting x-rays. She wants to hear the sound of raindrops hitting windows rather than squinting her eyes into the bright sun with beads of humidity on her skin.

 

“Uh, my leg is fine, just a heat cramp,” She clears her throat with a cough, suddenly wishing she’d grabbed a water bottle from the trainers before leaving to get on the bus, “I’m willing to bet my hand is broken. My mental state? A little fragile.”

 

“Tobin,” Christen whispers over the phone, “Is it the game or Alex and Allie still? Or well actually probably both.”

 

She’s the only person on the bus and she rests her head against the window as she switches the phone to her other hand, “I just want to be home.”

 

It washes over her, the exhaustion from the travel, the ache in her back from the hotel beds, the crook in her neck she’d gotten after forgetting her pillow at home, the airplane scent permanently ingrained in her suitcase and all her clothes. She wants the softness of her bed, the familiarity of her pillow, and the scent of Christen lingering on her sheets.

 

“I want you here too,” Christen whispers it like it’s some sort of secret, like nobody with her is allowed to hear it, “Selfishly. But I want you to play too, that’s your passion.”

 

Tobin reminds herself of this but she’s never been good at losing, and even though the team didn’t she certainly feels like her body did, “Only 20 more hours.”

 

“Actually,” Christen pauses briefly, “19 hours and 37 minutes. I’m not sure about the seconds.”

 

“Will you get there early, before I get back?” Tobin feels needy but from her conversations Christen’s just about as anxious to see her as she is.

 

“Of course, if that’s what you want,” Christen giggles at Tobin’s request and it brings a smile to her face, “Have you seen your mom yet?”

 

“No, I’m meeting her at the hotel for dinner,” Tobin shifts a little in her seat, some players are starting to exit the stadium for the bus.

 

“Tell her I say hello, okay?” Christen knew that Tobin talks about her with her mother and siblings, she’d been in the background of a spontaneous facetime her mom had called when her nephew was visiting last week, “And let her take care of you alright? You could use a little TLC right now.”

 

Tobin laughs a little back, thinking that she’s feeling probably a little too comfortable with Christen considering they’d only spent a good few days together before she’d departed for so long, “I will, promise.”

 

“Good,” Christen sounds awfully satisfied with herself and it makes her smile, “I’ll see you tomorrow, alright?”

 

“I miss you,” Tobin offers up one final time before hanging up.

 

“I miss you too Tobin, so much. Only a few hours now, then you’re all mine for three and a half weeks, alright?”

 

“Tomorrow. See you Chris.”

 

-

 

Tobin sleeps like she’s trying to catch up on a week's worth of no sleep on the plane, as soon as her row fills she closes her eyes and lets her head droop to the side. Her head hits Allie’s shoulder at some point in the flight and she’s nice enough to not even shrug her off until the flight attendants are saying it’s okay for them to turn their phones off airplane mode.

 

“You okay Tobs?” Allie squeezes her right hand that’s resting on the armrest in between them before reaching down to put her headphones in her bag, “Relatively speaking?”

 

“Yeah, fine,” Tobin feels so disoriented about the last five or six hours that she doesn’t even remember if she put her phone in the seat pocket or if it had fallen somewhere in her seat near her lap, “Just ready to get home, ya know?”

 

Allie examines her skeptically, like she’s not entirely convinced by the words that she says, but they’re true, “Yeah, me too.”

 

Waiting patiently is never something she’s been good at, especially in airports. She finds herself staring much too often at the ugly green carpet of the Portland airport and watching the conveyer belt spin before the luggage even starts to drop down. It takes what feels like years before the whole team gets their luggage and Tobin’s about halfway out the door already before they get corralled up to get on the bus to take them to Providence. She wishes that Christen could just pick her up at the airport because she knows that she’d be on time and waiting for her in the pick up lanes rather than taking the bus back just so that she can drive herself to her apartment again. Somebody else has to pull her carry on case because her left hand is bruising and has seen better days and she has to drive home with one hand. She tries to think of a way to stack her suitcases or something so she can bring them into her apartment with one trip but comes up blank so she picks the one with the most important stuff in it because she knows that as long as Christen is up in her room that she’s not coming back down.

 

Tobin can count seven sensations that hit her when she turns the doorknob to her already unlocked apartment door. There’s the shoes by the door, the smell of chili, but also the smell of cookies. There’s the overwhelming feeling of being somewhere familiar, of being home. Most importantly though, there’s the squeal of excitement as Christen shouts her name and the sight of her hurriedly wiping her hands on a dish rag and clumsily skipping to her across the apartment. She feels ready to catch her but Christen is prepared and instead of wrapping her arms around Tobin’s neck she wraps them around her waist and pulls her tighter than she ever has before.

 

Tobin sighs and stretches on her tiptoes to get some leverage to wrap her own arms around Christen’s neck. Christen’s hands are rubbing her back gently and she can feel the way her cheeks reflect her smile with her face pressed into the crook of her neck. She pulls back a little to look in her eyes before she whispers, “I missed you.”

 

“I missed you too,” Tobin whispers back at her, like someone is spying in on some sort of secret conversation they’re having in the wide open of her living room. Christen presses forward to press a soft kiss to her lips, squeezing tighter against her waist, and Tobin pushes back, tightening her arms around her neck, and testing opening her mouth a little. Christen reciprocates the move and one ups her, letting her tongue re familiarize itself with her mouth. She pulls back a little dazed, and she attributes that to the fact that she probably should have removed herself quite a few seconds earlier but couldn’t bring herself to do it, but when she does she whispers “So. Much.” punctuated with little pecks to her lips.

 

“Are you okay Tobin?” Christen pauses but doesn’t let her go, “Your hand and your leg?”

 

“Yeah, just a little,” She lifts up her hand behind Christen’s neck to look at it, she bites her bottom lip as Christen faces her with curiosity, “Sore, bruised. Maybe a little, I don’t know, broken.”

 

“You haven’t gone to get it checked out yet,” Christen pulls back from her, but not before grabbing her left wrist before it falls to her side, “Tobin your staff really should have made sure you got somewhere before you le-”

 

“There wasn’t enough time Chris, I couldn’t get into an urgent care or anything since it was Sunday night and it’s not a trauma and I have a high pain tolerance so I didn’t think it was worth a trip to the emergency room but-”

 

“Take a breath,” Christen pulls her back by the wrist, pressing another soft kiss to her lips, “It’s fine, I just want to make sure you’re being taken care of. Soccer’s important to you so I want you to be back and playing as soon as possible.”

 

“Thanks, but,” Tobin pauses to lick her lips, “Even on the off chance it’s not broken they’re not going to clear me to play for a couple of days anyway so it’s not going to kill me to wait another day.”

 

“Okay,” Christen smiles a little weakly at her, a little sad, but she reaches out for her other hand, “Are you hungry? I’ve got chili, cookies, beer, whatever you want.”

 

“I may or may not be starving,” Tobin grins at her as she lets herself be pulled toward the kitchen, where her hand is dropped when they near the counter so she pulls out one of the barstools to sit down on. Christen pulls some bowls out, grabs some saran wrapped ramekins from the fridge with cheese, diced onions, and tomatoes and ladles some chili from a crockpot that she definitely doesn’t own, “It smells incredible, thank you.”

 

“No problem,” Christen places a hand on her back and presses a kiss on her cheek before she twirls around to sit on the seat next to her.

 

“Okay, now enough about me,” Tobin spoons a mouthful of chili as Christen slides her left hand onto her mid thigh, “What about you? When can I come see how the studio is coming together? How was Seattle?”

 

-

 

“So you’re going to be home more this week?” Christen asks with a bit of hidden excitement to her tone, the sheets are wrapped loosely around her chest, and she slides her left hand over the sheets to grab Tobin’s right, giving it a little squeeze.

 

“Tomorrow for sure, I’m gonna miss practice,” Tobin lets her eyes shut lightly, “But I should probably get to a pool for some recovery at some point, I would normally do some yoga but,” She holds her hand up, looking at it for probably the 1,732nd time in the past few hours.

 

“Do you think you’re going to be able to play next weekend in Seattle?” She asks gently.

 

Tobin feels a sigh escape her lips before she knows it, that’s the million dollar question everyone on the team had been afraid of asking. She doesn’t think Christen’s aware of the rivalry, of how important this game could be, and how she looked forward to these games like no other, “I’m willing to bet not.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Christen rolls more onto her side, propping her head on her hand, and reaching over to rub her arm with her other hand, “Can I come? To your next game?”

 

“Of course,” Tobin keeps her eyes closed, her breathing steady and calm, “You can come to the next game, you can come to every game if you don’t find it boring. I can get you a pass, perfect, you can sit in the friends and family booth, the games tend to sell out here but I have some ins.”

 

“Okay,” Christen nods, her smile widens as Tobin runs on.

 

“If you want,” Tobin licks at her dry lips a little, “We can go to Seattle together, drive up to watch the game, come back after?”

 

“I’d love that,” She bites her lip and Tobin smiles up at her.

 

A silence wafts over them and so Christen bends down to press a kiss to her lips, Tobin tries to deepen it by leaning up and into it, but Christen pulls back as she tries.

 

“Do you have a piece of paper?” Tobin quirks her eyebrows at the question but sighs and rolls over to her bedside table, grabbing for a notebook she had spare incase she ran out of space in one of her journals and flipping it open to a blank page before handing it to Christen along with a pen.

 

“Thank you,” Christen wiggles into Tobin’s side, pressing their bodies together and Tobin lifts up her arm so that she can put it behind Christen’s head for it to rest on, “Now, what do I need to know?”

 

Tobin watches as Christen pulls her legs toward her chest so that she can rest the notebook on her legs to write, “Know about what?”

 

“Soccer,” She says as though it’s obvious, tilting her head sideways to look in her eyes, “What do I need to know so that I don’t embarrass myself because I’ve been so lost watching those livestreams.”

 

“Okay well, how about we start with a field?” Tobin laughs as the points at the paper, “So eleven people playing on each team at the same time, usually a goalkeeper, four defenders, and either three midfielders and three forwards, five midfielders and one forward, or four midfielders and two forwards. I play wing, prefer left to right but I kind of play both, mostly left in Portland.”

 

-

 

One day later Tobin figures out that her hand is in fact not broken which delights her, because recovery will be a lot faster for her bone bruise and a lot more comfortable than wearing a cast. Christen takes her out later that night for dinner, she blushes when Christen kisses her cheek and compliments her quite frankly modest outfit of black skinny jeans, black shirt, and black leather jacket. She takes her to a trendy restaurant that she’s never been to before but it screams Christen and they both order vegetarian options even though they don’t need to. The night ends up with Tobin on her back in bed, Christen hushing her over her concerns of reciprocation while citing her hand injury and letting her know that she just needs to lay back and relax for a moment.

 

Wednesday she returns back to the park, she can’t get a medical clearance until she’s able to meet with her own doctor rather than the one she saw at the urgent care clinic after confirming she couldn’t get an appointment with her normal doctor until Friday. The training staff let her condition with the team but don’t let her participate in any scrimmages or contact activities, which she’s begrudgingly bitter about and mumbles ‘but that’s the best part’ when she’s escorted to practice pk’s on the goalkeepers instead and Nadine laughs at her.

 

When Friday rolls around, and her doctor says she probably shouldn’t play until next week based off of the swelling and tenderness still in her hand, she takes Christen out for drinks since she’s officially off duty for the weekend. Since the studio doesn’t open for another two weeks her Saturday mornings are still free so she can stay the night, and the day, and the next night at Tobin’s, lazing around the apartment, hiding from the rain, and alternating between drinking coffee and tea.

 

On Sunday they leave mid morning to make it in time for the early afternoon game, she managed to swing getting a pair of tickets hiding up in the often unfilled portion of stadium. It’s raining so they’ve got jackets pulled up over their heads which keeps them pretty well hidden. Christen seems to understand without having to be told that that could change at any moment so they sit a little closer than friends but their contact is minimal except for when they bump their knees together after Christen asks questions so simple that it makes Tobin laugh and she exclaims for the umpteenth time that she just really doesn’t understand the offsides rule before Tobin confirms that it’s one of the trickier rules to pick up on and she’ll get it eventually.

 

About forty-five minutes after they leave, Tobin’s driving with her one hand and her phone buzzes with a text message in the cup holder so she has Christen read it to her. Allie’s invited them out to the usual bar they celebrate at back home, citing eightish as the agreed upon meeting time, so Tobin tells Christen it’s up to her if she wants to go out and meet everyone while they are in a mostly drunken state. Christen laughs at her, which makes her smile, confirming that she doesn’t care and that it’s probably easier than when they’re sober.

 

They walk at the speed of running from where their uber drops them off at the corner of the block under an umbrella in the rain. Tobin’s got her arm looped through Christen’s arm that’s holding the umbrella up and instead of letting go when they make it to the awning in front of the door she grips on tighter teasingly and laughs at Christen as she struggles to close the umbrella and she nudges Tobin with her hip in response. They’re still laughing as they’re greeted by the warmth of the buzzing bar and Tobin sighs in satisfaction, shrugging her shoulders to remove her vest. She smiles back at Christen as she steps forward, offering her good hand as she side steps towards her friends.

 

“Woah, woah, woah,” Tobin winces as someone grabs at her hand, the culprit is none other than Emily Sonnett who’s grabbing at her hand to pull her into the party, “Careful.”

 

“Captain Tobs, you showed!” Tobin laughs as Emily takes another sip of her dark beverage, “We missed ya on the field, sorry bout the hand by the way!”

 

Emily is shouting a lot considering it’s not too loud in the bar but it’s so familiar that she doesn’t mind, “Not your fault, but Sonnett have you met my girlfriend Christen?”

 

“Ahh,” Emily is tapping the glass of her drink as she sticks her hand out, Christen drops hers to meet her halfway, “The elusive girlfriend Christen. Nice to meet you, great handshake by the way.”

 

“Thanks,” Christen laughs as she pushes some damp curls away from her face, “It’s nice to meet you too.”

 

“Listen Em,” Tobin bends a little closer so that she can hear her, “Chris and I are gonna go grab some drinks, but we’ll see you around, alright?”

 

“Oh, of course,” Emily curtseys, holding out her free hand in the direction of the bar, “Hope to see you around Christen.”

 

“Likewise,” Tobin can hear Christen giggling behind her as she guides her by hand, pushing through friends and family who have shown up to celebrate the win, finding one open barstool which Christen motions for her to take. As she slides on top she can feel Christen sliding up next to hear, her arm wrapping around her lower waist as she leans over to press a kiss to her cheek, “She seems fun.”

 

“She is,” Tobin agrees, leaning into her a little, “I’ve mentioned my friend Kelley before, right? The one that played for Stanford.”

 

“Yeah, I remember vaguely,” Christen nods in confirmation, “You’ve known each other for a really long time, right?”

 

“Since we were fourteen I think. Anyway, I don’t really know the details but her and Em have got something going on. She plays in Jersey but they’re both from Georgia and live there in the offseason so I don’t know if it’s anything serious,” Tobin pauses, “Yet.”

 

“Usual?” The bartender recognizes her as a part of the regular post game crowd, if she hadn’t been here for four years already she would be impressed by his memory because he never screws up.

 

“Yeah, and whatever she’s having on the same tab,” Tobin glances over at Christen to let her know she can order whatever as she hands her card from her pocket over to the bartender.

 

“I’ll have whatever she has,” Christen squeezes her waist a little as she says this and Tobin furrows her eyebrows at her.

 

“You sure?” Christen nods back at her, “It’s beer, you’re not going to like it.”

 

“Alcohol is alcohol,” Christen shrugs, “Plus I’ll drink like half of it, put it down on the counter, and then you can discreetly reach over for mine and finish it for me. Then I definitely will make sure I haven’t had too much to drink before I go to work tomorrow if you finish all of mine.”

 

Tobin’s halfway through whining and asking Christen if she really needs to leave by eight the next morning since the team’s going to be doing recovery and she’ll be home most of the day when a pair of arms wrap around her neck in a chokehold of a hug, in the process Christen’s arm slides off of her waist as her chair spins from the impact.

 

“You made it!” Allie’s deep familiar voice drawls in her ear much louder than necessary considering their proximity, her arms reach up to grab onto Allie’s arms in greeting but also hoping that she’ll be able to loosen them a little from the tight grip on her neck.

 

“Of course,” Tobin beams up at her as she backs away a little, as Allie signals to the bartender for another drink she sticks her tongue out at Bati in greeting and he returns it.

 

“When can you start playing, like for real?” Allie asks as she lifts up her hand that was resting against the bar, Christen watching over her shoulder from the other side.

 

“Wednesday,” She shrugs a little, “But Allie, this is Christen, Chris this is Allie.”

 

Allie sticks her hand out across Tobin’s chest so she leans back a little and Christen laughs as she also reaches out, “Nice to finally meet you, I’d hug you but I know from experience Tobin’s not much of a sandwich person.”

 

Tobin nudges her in the side before she rolls her eyes but Christen enjoys it so she can’t complain too much, “You too, I’ve heard a lot about you.”

 

Tobin hears Allie mutter “hopefully more good than bad” as she turns slightly to accept her own drink from the bartender and so Tobin nudges her again, giving her a warning look with her eyes, “I’d love for the four of us to grab dinner sometime, maybe somewhere a little more conducive for conversation.”

 

She shoots Allie a little bit of a warning look, a little bit of a ‘thanks for giving me a heads up’ look just barely before Christen is eagerly agreeing, “I’d love that actually, I want to get to know some more of Tobin’s friends, meet some more people up here in Portland, I’ve been hanging around a lot of contractors and my cycling instructors the past few weeks.”

 

“A lot of testosterone it sounds like,” Allie smirks as she places her hand on Tobin’s back, motioning her to turn around and tugging at Bati’s hand to come over and form more of a square rather than the awkward line they were in so they don’t have to converse over each other now that Allie seemingly has the in, “And speaking of, I wanna ask you about your business, when are you opening? I’ve heard a lot of good things from some friends I have in the LA area, they’re like addicted to spin now but quite frankly I’ve never really seen the interest in pedalling without going anywhere.”

 

“And I’ve never understood the purpose of a treadmill either,” Christen laughs at Allie’s forwardness, ready to answer the laundry list of questions that Allie probably has, “Well, we’re set for the first of May, we’re going to be pretty busy the first month or so, a lot of our classes are filling up pretty quickly but I’m sure I can find some spots if a few of you wanted to come in. Maybe when Tobin’s coming, there were a few spots open still and if not I can switch you in for my spot, I do the classes all the time anyway.”

 

“Oh,” Allie’s eyebrow quirks up, “So you still do the classes yourself? If you don’t mind me asking, is that all you do to workout? I couldn’t help but notice you seem very in shape.”

 

Christen twitches a little in the way that she gets when she feels defensive about her business, Tobin’s seen her interact with other people enough to know that she hates when people act surprised that she still helps out with the day-to-day management of her business, “Oh, of course! We try to incorporate weights for a full body workout so I don’t do much for weight training. If I’m not cycling then I try to do something outside, I’ve always enjoyed running so I’ll jog once or twice a week too. I like yoga too.”

 

“Well sign me up for whatever you’re doing, it obviously works,” Allie winks at Tobin before Bati and her give her an ‘I can’t believe you just said that look.’

 

“Harry, please, you’re in better shape than probably 99% of the country,” Bati nods in agreement with her.

 

Bati stands back and shrugs at her as Allie continues her conversation with Christen, her hands starting to motion faster and faster the more Christen engages and laughs.

 

-

 

“Okay, so airport at 5:30 on Thursday, I’ll let you know what kind of car I’m in,” Tobin looks around the living room of her apartment one more time, like she’s forgetting something even though she ran through her usual packing list that she hangs on the back of her closet door twice already.

 

“Tobin, I know,” Christen reaches out to push her towards the shoes waiting by the door, grabbing one of her suitcases to wheel with her, “I have enough faith in you that you won’t forget, and if you do I’ll text you.”

 

“Right,” Tobin pauses after sliding her feet into her untied shoes, leaving them untied. Christen flips the light switch, grabbing her own keys from the welcome basket. She watches as Tobin stutters over her own words, “You’re sure that you’re ready for this?”

 

“Absolutely Tobin,” Christen reaches out to squeeze her hand. In April, Tobin had flown down to LA with Christen for five days when she’d had a bye week and their manager had given them a rare few days off work. They’d stayed at Christen’s parents all but one night since they had the dogs anyway and Christen wanted to spend every second she wasn’t meeting with lawyers, investors, and checking up on her studios with here family. Tobin had absolutely loved it. Her parents and siblings were warm and friendly, never too prying, but always curious to find out more about her job and Portland. Her dad had opened up a little more, his humor shining through a lot, and she’d spent the majority of her time there at her parents without Christen.

 

Like usual, she’d loved LA. She always loved being somewhere knowing that she could step outside and the weather would be perfect for her to jump on a couple mile run, go for a surf, or just lay out in the sun and relax. Christen always made sure to be home before sunset and the two of them would had out for a walk with the dogs for some alone time. A part of her got comfortable in their short stint in LA and she began to wonder, if some day down the line that this is similar to what their future could look like. It’s almost like she could picture it, living somewhere near the coast, close to Christen’s family who’d all remained in the area, walking a couple dogs, and dare she say it, chasing after a couple kids if they’re lucky. She’s never really been able to actually picture her future in a way that she did with Christen, wasn’t ever able to pinpoint somewhere she’d like to live or settle down really after soccer was out of sight. She has always wanted to have a family, she always knew that, but the details were always fuzzy, with who and where and how many and it always made her uncomfortable to think about a time when soccer wasn’t in her life anymore. This is comfortable though, watching dogs splash in the saltwater while she digs her feet deep into warm sand, with her arm looped through Christen’s.

 

She thinks that’s why this is making her irrationally nervous, because she wants Christen to be able to envision similar thoughts with her own family. Her family will surely love Christen, there’s no doubt about that. Her mom will love her, Christen’s sweet, family oriented, driven, and passionate which will be enough for her. Likewise with her siblings, she’s adventurous enough for her brother and bubbly enough for her sisters. Her dad, maybe the hardest to please, will at least appreciate her entrepreneurship since he’d owned his own business.

 

What she really wants is for Christen to be able to envision visiting her family out East sometime in the future. She wants Christen to be able to envision vacationing in the summer with her siblings and their spouses/future spouses, spending or rotating spending Christmas or Thanksgiving with them at her mom’s house in Florida, and curling up for movies in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate in the winter.

 

Christen bids her a final farewell in the parking lot, she’s heading off to camp for a few days first while Christen finishes out her work week to meet them in Jersey on Thursday before her Saturday afternoon game in good ole’ Jersey. She’ll have the afternoon and night off according to the schedule so they’re going to head over to Tobin’s sister’s house for dinner with almost all of her siblings before Christen goes to the airbnb her mom had rented for them all to stay in since Tobin will have five days after camp before she needs to report back to Portland. Conveniently, her birthday falls somewhere in the span of those few days.

 

She dedicates everything she has in her body to training while she’s at camp, each time she heads to another one of these major tournaments she thinks she’s in the best shape of her life, but this time she means it. There hasn’t been a game, national or club, since March that she hasn’t started and played the full 90’, which she used to rarely have the opportunity to do. Everyone keeps complimenting her game, telling her she’s playing the best soccer of her life and taken herself to the next level, and it’s true. She’s always loved having the ball at her feet but since the World Cup finished and competition on the team has changed she’s felt the need to refine herself on the field as she does so off the field. Things that she’s always told herself that she’d work on improving but this time she actually does it. She works on finishing, she works on her endurance, and she reminds herself more so now than she ever has before that running into multiple defenders isn’t always necessarily the best way to get to the goal.

 

Really though, she can’t complain about the air of ignorance or the silent agreement that they’re going into this tournament and they’re going to win simply because they are The Best Team In The World if she’s not hitting the field and giving her 100% at every practice, every scrimmage, and every game.

 

When she tries to explain to Christen, in private of course, she has difficulty putting words to how she’s feeling. She doesn’t like to doubt her team, and as any professional athlete should, she has a bit of cockiness herself, but she feels like something is off. There isn’t really one element that she can put the blame on, she thinks a bit of it is cockiness, a bit of it is coaching and tactics, a bit of it is the large amount of rookies and unfair benching of veterans (she’s not saying this as a veteran, she really believes that certain veterans are better than other players getting more field time), a bit is the change in leadership, and a bit is lacking a major loss to drive them to win. She likes to think she’s imagining it because when she brings it up to Alex in the dark of their room after they’ve turned the lights off one night, Alex says that no, she doesn’t have a weird feeling going into it. So maybe she feels weird going into this Olympics because for the first time in her career the team hasn’t lost the World Cup a year before and the devastation isn’t driving her mad like last time.

 

Pushing these thoughts to the back of her mind, she focuses on the game ahead. There’s some sort of weird pre-Olympic setup and instead of playing two games they’re only playing one, and right before they leave they’re going to play three games in nine days to replicate Olympic play instead.

 

True to her word, she arrives to pick up Christen at Newark a little later than planned since Christen’s flight had been delayed a little bit, which just made her wait anxiously for an even longer period of time. When she arrives, however, she’s suddenly calm even though there are cars egging her to move as she gets out to hug Christen and help her put her luggage in the trunk.

 

When they’re in the car and she takes it out of park, she looks over at Christen, grabs her hand over the console, and instead of saying something really eloquent or stating how much she missed her she musters out a breathless, “Hello.”

 

“Hi,” Christen grabs their clutched hands with her other one, bringing all three hands close to her face and kissing the knuckle of Tobin’s thumb, “I missed you.”

 

“I missed you too,” Even though she doesn’t have a moment to glance over at Christen as she tries to navigate her way out of the airport in the team rental car, she smiles forward at Christen’s words, “A lot.”

 

“So,” Christen states hesitantly, “How’s camp?”

 

“It’s okay,” She responds even more hesitantly, “I just have this weird feeling. I don’t know, maybe it’s just because I’m getting a lot more pressure to be a key component than I’ve ever had and I’m internalizing my feelings by blaming them on other elements. Or, maybe I don’t like change and I’m resistant to it and I’m internalizing it that way.”

 

Christen practically chokes on air when Tobin says this and she has to ask if she’s okay before Christen speaks up again, “Where’d you get that from?”

 

“Mm,” Tobin bites her lip a little, “The coach, well and Carli and Becky were there but they didn’t say much.”

 

“Did you actually go talk to them?” Christen’s a little excited because after Tobin comes home from these camps she tends to dwell on some ‘problem’ that she can not get to the bottom of and Christen has been suggesting for a while now that maybe the best way to express her concern would be to talk to the coaches, or maybe even just the captains, “How’d it go?”

 

“It was, interesting I guess,” Tobin has a difficult time placing words to how she’s feeling because she’d had one of those moments where she felt like someone was listening to her but not hearing her, “I don’t know, I can only express so much concern about tactics to a coach who won the World Cup. She just keeps saying we’re transitioning to focus on the next World Cup, which is great and all, but also it’s three years away. I personally think we’re not playing well as a team and we’re weak defensively, which is what won us the World Cup. There’s a lot of politics going on behind the scenes with the equal pay thing and I think people are distracted and more worried about their future on the team than they are about being the best we can be in the present. I don’t know, a lot of things I can’t control, they’ve got some master development plan and who knows maybe it’ll work and in four years we’ll win again.”

 

“Well,” Christen has been tracing patterns on the back of her hand, “All you can do is be honest and play to the best of your abilities.”

 

“Yeah,” Tobin nods a little warily, “I’ll play my part.”

 

-

 

When they arrive at Perry’s rented townhouse in the suburbs she thinks that Christen probably has enough energy that she could get out of the car and run five miles. Something about being trapped in a plane for a few hours apparently has her feeling like she needs to expel the energy that was pent up inside her from sitting in one seat for five or so hours. They have to park on the street because Perry’s driveway is full with her sister and mom’s rentals and Christen’s bouncing on her toes after they ring the doorbell and wait for someone to open the door.

 

“Hi!” Katie yells at them with her nephew in her arms, reaching out with the other for a hug. Tobin is always impressed, Katie always manages to look more put together even though she has a kid than she ever is, “Oh my God we missed you!”

 

Happily, she accepts the warm arms of her sister, pressing her head into her shoulders as they squeeze tightly onto each other. When she pulls back she looks in Katie’s eyes before reaching for Cole and responding with the only words she can think right now, “I missed you guys too, so much.” Kissing his head and tickling his stomach she follows up with, “Especially you.”

 

When she glances back at Christen, she meets a pair of eyes that are staring right back at her. Rather than focusing on her sister in the doorway in front of her, she’s watching Tobin bounce her nephew in comfort after the surprise of being taken from his mom.

 

“Katie, this is-”

 

Before she can finish though, Katie interrupts and finishes her introduction, “Christen, nice to meet you.”

 

“Nice to meet you too,” Christen is about to offer her hand out of politeness even though she probably knows that nothing less than a hug is a proper Heath greeting, “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, I’ve only been to the airport here before.”

 

“Oh well,” Katie laughs at her, shrugging a little bit, “There’s nothing quite like the dirty Jerz, welcome to the suburbs babe.”

 

Katie motions for her to follow inside so Tobin holds out her hand for Christen to go in first and she follows with Cole in her arms, Christen looks back over and sends her a wink.

 

“Everyone’s out back,” Katie explains, grabbing a plastic bag full of buns, “The men have got the grill going, Mom, Pear, and I just finished shucking the corn so we’re just hanging out now.”

 

When they step outside they’re greeted similarly to Katie’s but this time a lot louder and she wants to laugh as Christen gets passed from hug to hug around her sisters, her mom, and her inlaws. Almost immediately she watches as Christen gets sat down at the table with a bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and pulled into a conversation that she listens to for awhile as they ask her questions about her childhood, Stanford, and Portland, all about things they’ve picked up in conversations with Tobin. She relaxes quite a bit in a lawn chair as they babble, pitching in every once in awhile when Christen mentions her name.

 

After sitting for some time Cole starts tossing a mini soccer ball (that she probably bought him herself) at Katie’s lap from lack of attention. Katie pulls him up on her lap and attempts to get him to let go of the ball so that he doesn’t unexpectedly throw it across the table that has various bottles of alcohol and glasses of wine sitting on top of it, but he only succeeds at crying at the loss and since Katie is about to get up to entertain him she stops her and offers to run some energy off with him in the small yard.

 

Katie quirks her eyebrow at her, “And leave your girlfriend here, alone, with us?”

 

“Oh come on, you’re not going to torture her,” Christen gives her an unnecessary smile across the table that assures that she’ll be fine, especially since Tobin will only be a few feet away, “You’ve barely even cracked college, it’ll be a couple more hours before you’re even reached present day.”

 

-

 

Tobin thinks she asked Christen thirty times if she was sure she was fine spending the next two nights alone with Katie’s family and her mom at the airbnb between leaving Perry’s front door, going to the rental car to grab her suitcase, and back to her mom’s rental car. Christen assures her all thirty times that she’s going to be just fine, they’d actually had a great time catching up with Tobin’s family and spent a lot of time talking about everyone’s lives and Perry’s upcoming wedding so there’s not much time to drill Christen at all. Halfway through dinner Christen pulled on the sweater she’d brought with her from the car so Tobin had wrapped her arm around her back and pulled her a little closer for the rest of the night.

 

After she pops Christen’s luggage in the trunk of her mother’s rental car, she reaches for Christen’s hand to pull her closer as she leans back against the car. Wrapping her arms around Christen’s waist, she pulls her in closer and has to pucker upwards for a kiss with Christen standing above her. There aren’t a lot of words but she thinks they just like standing there with their arms around each other. Christen mutters one more time that she missed her before Tobin compliments how well she’d done with her family to which Christen shrugs and starts to list off reasons why she likes them so much.

 

She hears her mom say goodbye to Perry as she exits the door and sighs in response. In her mind it kind of sucked that Christen would be staying away from her but then again they are going to meet up for a couple hours after open training (which her family is coming to) and before the team dinner and strategy meeting. Come Saturday afternoon though, she can’t wait to sit down and relax with both her family and Christen, which she can’t think of many things she’d rather do.

 

The game is a little bit of a struggle, at least to her it is. For some reason they just are having a difficult time finishing against Colombia, a team they’re for sure playing in the group stage of the Olympics. While the 4-1 finishing score would say otherwise, their first goal didn’t come until the 42nd minute, followed by another in the 60th when the opposing team was starting to burn out. However, they subbed in three new players at once and managed to score a goal off a free kick. Her own team's last two goals came in the last twelve minutes, when Colombia seemed like they could barely keep up. That’s the type of winning that Tobin doesn’t pride herself on. The game had been a lot closer for the first sixty to seventy minutes than had been predicted, they’d approached the game like it was going to be an easy win and for majority of the game it wasn’t. It frustrated her because she has a difficult time letting the final score sit at 4-1 to a quite frankly very talented team who’d held their own for most of the game but weren’t funded enough and whose players didn’t have the capability to play in a league with consistently high competition levels so they burn out the last twenty to thirty minutes and let in goals they normally wouldn’t.

 

She hates getting in a car with Christen after a win when she’s bouncing and boasting about all of Tobin’s great corners and her assist and having to explain why she’s frustrated and not satisfied with the game, but Christen understands that there’s more to being a professional athlete than winning or losing and sympathizes with what Tobin’s saying about their performance as a team. However, she plasters on a happy face for her family as they gather for dinner at the large house her mother had so generously rented for everyone, especially after she arrives and her brother and his girlfriend surprise her.

 

Sometime around ten she starts to yawn and she knows that Christen’s nowhere near tired because it’s barely six back home in Portland but she says they should get up to bed so after bidding goodnight to everyone she follows Christen up the stairs to their room. Some of the rooms have their own bathrooms and her and Christen had been fortunate enough to land one. She’s brushing her teeth when Christen comes in, bumping her hip, before starting the same process of her own as Tobin scans down her body, only clothed in an oversized shirt of her own. Tobin nips at her neck as she finishes, impatient and needy after a few days apart, before Christen shimmies out of Tobin’s grip on her hips to wipe her mouth dry.

 

Tobin initiates some kissing in bed but things don’t escalate much past some below the shirt above the waist groping because Tobin is exhausted and Christen can tell, so she slows down the pace and Christen nudges her to roll over and spoons her from behind. She sighs deeply at the way that Christen brushes up and down her forearm in the dark and silence of the room.

 

“Can I ask you something?” Christen’s voice beckons her eyes open but she doesn’t turn to move.

 

“Of course,” Tobin grabs at her wandering hand, tangling their fingers together.

 

“You do really well with Cole,” Tobin must admit that she was anticipating a question rather than a statement and once again a silence washes over them.

 

“Thanks?” She hesitates a little in response.

 

“I was just wondering,” Christen stammers a little, lets the silence wash over them a little, “Do you, um, want kids? In the future, obviously.”

 

It sounds like Christen states the last part in some sort of awkward coverup but Tobin feels like this is something she should roll over for, to look at her even though she may not be able to see her eyes in the dark. Christen’s arm stays around her and she reaches over to rest her own around Christen’s body and scoots a little closer, “Yeah, eventually.”

 

“Okay,” Christen states and Tobin is trying to search in the dark for a reaction but is coming up blank until she speaks again after a beat that’s too long for Tobin’s sanity, “Good.”

 

Tobin smiles a bit and she thinks that Christen can tell, “Good?”

 

“Good.” Christen confirms and leans in slightly to press a kiss to her lips.

 

Tobin also takes a moment but for confirmation repeats, “Good.”

 

She thinks that that’s Christen’s cue that she’s gotten the answer that she was searching for and a hand reaches up to her face, her palm lands on her cheek, thumb brushing over her eyebrow, and she can feel her breathing evening out as she instinctively closes her eyes. Christen kisses her forehead one more time but even though she’s exhausted, she’s not sure if she can exactly fall asleep with her mind asking questions.

 

“So by good you mean that you want kids too?”

 

She can tell that Christen wasn’t expecting Tobin to speak again as she inhales sharply after being startled before she takes a deep breath and settles back into Tobin, “Yeah, I do.”

 

“Good,” Tobin repeats with a laugh and Christen pinches her arm gently for making fun of her, “But no, seriously, since we’re on the topic, how many?”

 

“I don’t know,” Christen pauses yet again for a short moment, “A lot can change but maybe three? I really liked growing up with two siblings so I think that’s just always been my number.”

 

“Three is a nice number,” Tobin hums in agreement but doesn’t say anything else.

 

“What about you Tobin? You can’t just ask me and not answer for yourself.”

 

“Don’t laugh at me,” Tobin states in warning, but she doesn’t think that Christen would ever just brush her off, “I’ve always wanted the same as what I grew up with as well.”

 

“So four?” Christen inhales a little sharply and Tobin understands, because four is a lot.

 

“Yeah,” She confirms a little uneasily as she can see Christen considering her statement.

 

“But?”

 

“But I’m willing to compromise,” Tobin realizes she’s been caught, “There’s a lot of factors but I’m certainly not getting any younger.”

 

“You’re not old Tobin,” Christen’s next question is soft and curious, not firm and forceful but assessing, “Well would you consider starting a family before you finish playing?”

 

“Yeah, I mean,” Once again she hesitates slightly because it’s kind of a heavy conversation to be having after two or three months but with something so important it’s probably better to put it on the table now than a year or two down the road, “There’s a lot of details to consider, but I’d like to, especially if we-”

 

Tobin catches herself too late and she panics, so she just stops. Surely she’s crossed some sort of line from taking the conversation from ideals and hypothetical to real and assuming. Her breath catches but Christen doesn’t stop rubbing her cheek with her thumb.

 

“Go ahead,” She whispers encouragingly, “You can say what you were going to, I don’t mind.”

 

Trying to scan Christen’s face is relatively easy now that her eyes are adjusted, it’s still dim and she’s a little less confident but continues with Christen’s encouragement, “No I was just going to say that if we, or I, I guess, want more than two.”

 

“Yeah,” Christen agrees as she moves to tuck away some hair that’s fallen into her face, “I’ll tell you what though, why don’t we continue this talk later? When you’re less tired and we’re a little more calm.”

 

“That’s probably a good idea,” Tobin agrees, letting a breath escape she didn’t know she was holding. It’s probably because she was a little nervous, the more she sees Christen the more she envisions what’s down the line, and she’s not sure what she would have said if Christen hadn’t responded like she did to her initial question.

 

Christen spends some more time drawing lazily on her shoulder while she tries to fall asleep again and as much as she’s trying to steady her breath by breathing through her nose, it’s not working very well.

 

“Tobin?”

 

“Hmm?” She responds, not opening her eyes this time because Christen’s got her near entranced with the pattern she’s drawing on her shoulder.

 

“I love you.”

 

When she hears the words she lets her eyes open but they don’t make it quite half way and she thinks that she must be more tired than she realized a moment ago because all she wants in this moment is a second wind of energy so that she can stay up longer with Christen, listening to her voice as they talk softly through the night with their arms wrapped loosely around each other. She has to settle though and she realizes that her pause has probably been a second too long but it hadn’t even taken her a second to know what her response would be, “I love you too Christen.”

 

Christen leans over and presses a feather light kiss on her lips and whispers, “You should get some rest.”

 

With that she’s ready to give in so she lets her eyes and her mind shut off as Christen continues to stroke the wispy baby hairs that frame her face.

 

-

 

Tobin wasn’t aware that it was possible but Christen and her were spending even more of their time together leading up to the Olympics, especially considering that a lot of the time Christen would tag along when she was going out with her friends. They were also busier than ever, Tobin focusing on the Olympics and Christen on opening her Seattle studio in June.

 

They plan for Christen to come to the last group stage game and the quarter final and have a plan for her and Tobin’s siblings to get back for the final and closing ceremony should the make it (which the team has never not made at least a third place game so she thinks the chances are high). Her dad is coming for all three group stage games, Perry, Jeffrey, and her mom are coming at the same time as Christen with some lingering long with others. As much as she wishes that Christen was able to just tag along the whole time like her mom is, she understands that Christen’s whole move to the Pacific Northwest was to expand and she’s got a lot of work with the Seattle location barely open by the time they leave.

 

There’s three weeks where they are away from each other again, Christen stays back in Portland with promises of watching when Tobin leaves for her send off games in the South, before they train in DC for four days, and leave to arrive in Brazil four days before their first game.

 

It’s fun to have her dad around, he seems to be having a fun time exploring Brazil by himself and with some of the other parents he’s known since Tobin was a teenager, and she hasn’t really spent much time alone with him in the past few years so she enjoys sitting down with him and chatting for an hour every day over coffee.

 

New Zealand goes well enough, Carli and Alex score in the first half and their opponents are aggressive but she doesn’t seem to think that there’s ever a moment where they worry about potentially losing or tying the game really. It gives them a nice little boost of energy going into playing France. That game goes about as good as she anticipated it to, both teams look like they’re struggling against each other, the flaws of their game plans show on both sides, and they come out battered and bruised but still victorious in the end.

 

It’s Colombia when it changes. She knows just as well as the team that they just need a tie to sit at the top of the group but the only two times the team has lost or tied in the past year is when they went down a goal first. So the team panics she thinks, in the first half nonetheless and it’s bad. Colombia is already going home but they’ve got their own issues and need to prove something before they leave, and they do. Even though technically they weren’t playing at home in Canada, the turn up was like it was a home game, so realistically they haven’t played an away game since Algarve almost two years ago. The crowd is booing them, the stadium is half empty, and it seems like something is sucking the energy from their team. They play like they’re just trying to survive, against a much lower ranked team than them and it scares her. She knew during the World Cup that they were going to win mid game against Germany. In a few months time when she looks back, this is the moment she knew they were going to lose the Olympics, she just didn’t know how bad.

 

Sweden is a shit show and a half to put it lightly. They can barely maintain a tie during regular time, and in overtime their one ball that hits the night gets called offsides. Since Sweden had managed one goal, they’re out. There are a lot of things that frustrate her, mostly the mismanagement of subs that led to Jill yelling at her to play wingback after she’d been on the field for more than ninety minutes already. She doesn’t think she’s felt that upsettingly frustrated by a game since 2011.

 

She’s happy that her family is there but admittedly she’s a little happier that Christen is there. When they finish the post-game team meeting and are told they have a few hours to tell the team managers where they want to go next the only thing she wants to do is collapse on a bed with Christen and cry on her shoulder. Which she does, even though she knows it’s not going to make anything change or better, it’s just what she needs to do.

 

She manages to muster energy to get dinner with her family and Christen since everyone is leaving tomorrow and they ask her what she’s going to do, stay in the village for the rest of the games or leave. There’s not a question in her mind, she’s going home. She’s going back to Portland and her managers are trying as hard as they can to get her in a seat next to Christen. Somehow they succeed, she’s not sure what sort of strings they have to pull but they’re in first class next to each other off to Portland the next day at noon.


The whole flight she leans on Christen, resting her head on her shoulder in defeat, letting the sleep she’d missed last night wash over her for most of the night while Christen traces over the bones of her hand on the arm rest in between them.

Chapter Text

The worst part of their early Olympic departure is that there are no games, for her team at least, scheduled for two weeks once they get back. Christen’s great after their loss, she lets her mope in her apartment for two days but wakes her for a seven am yoga session on the third and gently nudges her back towards normal life. It starts with the yoga but that day when Christen leaves her sitting on a stool at her island with a kiss on the cheek she mentions something about dinner and beer. The day after that is Friday and Christen finishes early in the afternoon at work so she offers to take Christen to an apple orchard even though it’s still mid-August but she happily agrees, they’re able to lounge around on benches and swings set up around the property and on Saturday Christen takes the weekend off to see how her staff manages to operate without her there on the busiest days of the week so they go to a lake that Christen’s been talking about going to forever.

 

When they get back to her apartment, skin tan from the sun, hair frizzy from the water, and legs cramped from sitting in the car, she spots her bag of training gear and her ball bag sitting in the trunk where Christen had packed their towels and a cooler full of snacks and water for the afternoon. Something sticks with her as they ride the elevator back up to her apartment and when they drop their bags on the floor. She watches as Christen heads to her bedroom, digging through her drawers until she finds one of Tobin’s Nike t-shirts and a pair of leggings that at this point she’s not sure whose they are.

 

Christen turns back to her, her face scrunching softly in confusion as she holds up the clothes in her hand, “I’m going to hop in the shower, you coming?”

 

Tobin smiles at her hopeful look, normally she’d be so down for every moment she gets to spend naked with Christen but there’s something itching in the back of her brain and Christen will still be here in an hour or two, “I’d love to but I think I’m gonna go to the park, take some shots or something. Just for an hour or two.”

 

“Yeah?” Christen perks up a little, dropping the clothes back onto the bed.

 

“Yeah, it’s just,” She taps a little at the door frame, eyeing the drawer where she keeps her soccer shorts, “I haven’t touched a ball in like a week, I just need to go play for a little while.”

 

“Do you want me to come with?” Christen offers at her with a smile.

 

“Do you want to come?” Tobin’s brow quirks up in offering.

 

“Sure,” Christen shrugs, reaching back to the bed to grab the abandoned clothes but also going in for a sports bra.

 

“Okay,” Tobin licks her lips, watching as Christen reaches behind her back to untie the strings of her still damp bikini, briefly wondering why she thought going to the park was a good idea in the first place when she’s got a perfectly beautiful woman undressing in front of her.

 

“So you’ve got three options,” Tobin’s head snaps up from the trail she’d been tracing down Christen’s torso to her face in confusion at the statement, “You can stay there staring at me naked, you can play in your wet bikini and jean shorts, or you can get changed and we can go.”

 

Tobin smirks back at her, lifting her own shirt above her head and snapping it in the direction of Christen’s butt but she jumps out of the way before making contact with her, “Okay smartass.”

 

-

 

Christen helps her with gear, carries her training bag in the dark until they get out of the parking lot and under the lights of the high school field she likes to practice on by herself. It’s artificial turf but it doesn’t matter because it’s not like she’s going to tackle herself or anything, the high school’s mascot emblazoned in the center of the field, with goalposts sitting behind the net. Christen stands back with her hands on her hips while she sets up some cones. She doesn’t want to make Christen run, doesn’t really know what Christen’s expectations for this are, so she starts jogging by herself along the thirty yard line. On her way back from the other side of the field she sees Christen smirking at her, ready to start running on the sideline and she joins her for a second and third pass down the line.

 

She ends no more tired than Tobin is and just stands back, watching as Tobin dumps five balls out of her bag, lining them up along the back line of the penalty box. Tobin knows that she probably shouldn’t just pick up some balls, take some shots, without a little warming up of some sort but decides against it, she just wants to feel the ball hit her foot and see the swoosh of a net. She’s a little ambitious, aims her first shot for the upper right corner using her left foot, it hits the back of the net and she sighs a little bit in relief before moving the next one. She switches, sinking it into the middle of the net this time. The third and fifth also hit the net but the fourth one goes a little awry and flies left of the goal, hitting the fence past the track. Christen jogs over and is holding the ball on the sideline, waiting for Tobin to finish her last shot before Tobin spins around to face her.

 

“You gonna kick it over?” Tobin asks, waiting at her spot, lining the balls back up on the line.

“I don’t know if I can make it from here,” Christen shrugs, rolling the ball beneath her right foot.

 

Tobin smiles back, daringly, “Try.”

 

She watches as Christen hovers and hesitates a little, takes a step back, and stubs the ball with what she probably thinks is the inside of her foot but is just barely the inside of her toe. She tries not to laugh but can’t contain herself, especially after Christen erupts at her own pathetic attempt.

 

“Okay then,” She catches her breath, “Come here.”

 

“No,” Christen shakes her head adamantly, but with a smile on her face.

 

“What?” Tobin stops over the ball she instinctively started rolling in between her feet, “Why?”

 

“Because I can tell by the smirk on your face that you’re going to make a fool out of me,” She stands defensively with her arms crossed, a matching smirk on her lips.

 

“What,” Tobin approaches her, ball following at her feet, “Like this?”

Christen gasps as the ball that she was watching at Tobin’s feet knocks right through her legs, “Tobin!”

 

“Maybe if you’d just let me teach you, that wouldn’t have been necessary,” She jokes as she circles back around to grab the ball before she stands in front of Christen again.

 

“You little shit,” Christen reaches out to grab onto her shirt but she slides away just fast enough that Christen misses her, because maybe in the apartment she may be able to catch her off guard or maybe she tones down her reflexes but on the field, with a ball at her feet, Christen doesn’t stand a chance.

 

“Gonna have to be a little faster than that,” She pulls the ball backward with her, standing a few feet back from Christen, “How about we start with passing?”

 

“No, no,” Christen holds up her hand, waving a little in refusal, “Really, do your thing. I’m just here to watch.”

 

“C’mon Chris,” Tobin taps the ball with just enough pace that she knows will roll softly to Christen’s feet, “It’ll be fun, I promise.”

 

-

 

There’s a game on a Sunday, luckily a home game, that Tobin cherishes. She thinks that she needs the sound of the crowd, cheering for her and not against her. This season has been a little weird, a lot of the rosters have changed, and for the first time in a long time, if ever even, they beat Kansas City easily. Surprisingly, she feels fine in the game. Unlike after losing after the World Cup, her mind isn’t frantic, thinking of all the passes she missed, shots she should have taken, and issues with the refs.

 

Christen is there after, waiting with the other friends and family of her teammates, and Tobin wraps her arms tight around her neck with a smile beaming on her face. She’d just found out in a press conference that her assist tonight put her dangerously close to breaking the league’s assist record and their win means that they’re one game ahead of the Spirit but still up two points, leaving them at the top of the table and that much closer to the playoffs.

 

They go out like usual, Becky joins them with her boyfriend who lives in Portland along with a few other players from the other team that are friends with their teammates. Christen buys their drinks this time and they head back to her apartment afterwards.

 

She practices up until Wednesday, Christen is going to fly out with her to Rhode Island for the world’s quickest trip later that night, coming back on Sunday morning on a five am flight for her game in Portland that night. It’s not the only wedding they’re going to this fall, they’re going to two of Christen’s friends in LA and Allie’s in Florida also.

 

Tobin feels like she was completely over packing for such a short trip but she needs clothes for the few days but also a dress for the rehearsal dinner, Christen has to bring her suitcase over from her apartment to grab some things she’d left at Tobin’s apartment over the months, and maybe grab of few of Tobin’s things as well.

 

Christen is kind of like her shadow throughout the weekend, Tobin herself doesn’t necessarily have that many duties since the wedding had been planned across the country in a really short amount of time. A lot of the people there she doesn’t really know, truth be told she doesn’t even know Perry’s fiance that well since she’d only met him about a year ago, so she has to introduce herself just about as much as she does Christen.

 

It’s fun though, Christen has been talking about coming back ever since they left after the send off a couple months before. She offers to watch Cole so that Katie and her mom don’t have to worry about him while they get their hair and makeup done with the bridal party, they sit with her family and Christen listens to the stories they tell of their childhood along the beach, her dad joining them this time, and even though they need to leave to get a few hours of sleep before leaving for the airport she dances close to Christen as the night wears on. She’s admittedly a bit sad to leave her family after such a short amount of time since she doesn’t get to see them that often but she also catches word that there’s going to be some sort of field naming ceremony that she doesn’t know all the details of but it does mean that she’ll be coming back sooner than she thought she’d be able to.

 

Given the roster of her team she’s not surprised but as each week goes on they manage to remain at the top of the table and they clinch their playoff spot soon after her return from Jersey. Somehow they end up back there maybe two or three weeks later, Christen tows along, and helps her write her ten minute speech that she’s freaking out about even though she was in fact a communications major in college, a couple days later she watches the game in Jersey that she’s playing with her family in the stands.

 

The shield is a big deal for her, because while it’s not a championship she does consider it a token of the hard work she’s dedicated and put into the club this season, a sort of tangible reward for her hard work during the season. She tries to play off her assist record but it gets difficult every time Christen brings it up, insisting they need to keep celebrating.

 

-

 

“So,” Christen states one morning as Tobin is enjoying a cup of coffee that Christen had made for her, since Christen owns a studio and the weekends are her busiest days it’s more frequent that she has days off in the middle of the week, this Wednesday is one of those days.

 

“So what?” Tobin prods as Christen slides into a chair next to her, propping her feet on the rung of the bottom of Tobin’s chair.

 

“So,” Christen exhales a little, sighing and sliding her cup of coffee on the table before dropping her hands on Tobin’s knees, “I need to make some decisions soon, at work.”

 

“What kind of decisions?” Tobin tries to rack her brain for possible expansions that Christen might have mentioned and washed over her brain but comes up dry.

 

“Well, you know how when I came to visit in February and I said that I would be moving up here for a year or so,” Christen works at maintaining eye contact with her but she feels a little nauseous as she puts her mug back on the table before Christen clarifies, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said it like that. I mean, I’m going to stay here, I want to stay here.”

 

Tobin lets a breath of air out she didn’t know that she was holding, “Okay, good. Wow, sorry, I just wasn’t expecting that and I thought you were going to say you were going back to LA, which I mean if that’s what you want then you should-”

 

“Tobin, stop rambling, listen for a second,” She lifts her hand up to Tobin’s head, brushes some hair behind her ears, “I miss LA and you know that but I want to be here, with you, that’s what I want. It’s just that we haven’t talked much about the offseason and I wanted to know if you were going to be here, in Portland, during the offseason.”

 

“I mean, for the most part, I was planning on it,” Tobin grabs her hand before it drops to her lap, “Maybe not for like Christmas, and I’ve got that camp in November and one for two weeks in January, but if you’re going to be here, I want to be here.”

 

“Okay,” Christen nods, “I just wanted to check in, we haven’t talked much about what’s going on after the season ends and Allie’s wedding. And you said you usually bounce around between friends and family offseason.”

 

“I don’t have any plans,” She shrugs, she hasn’t even started to think that far in advance.

 

“There’s two things then, that I want to talk about a little. So my dad has this big charity thing, it’s in London in December, and my parents thought it’d be fun if we all went out for an early Christmas present. Normally I wouldn’t ask but I know you have like a million miles and-”

 

“Christen,” She hushes a little, “You know I’d love to come. Just keep me in the loop with plans, we’ll figure it out.”

 

“Great,,” Christen breathes a little and Tobin’s not sure why should would have been nervous but figures it’s just apart of her nature that Tobin’s picked up on over the months.

 

“Now what else?”

 

“Um, I want to move, out of this apartment that is,” Tobin falters a little at her words since she’d only been living here in this apartment for half a year, her lease isn’t even near being up.

 

“Why?”

 

“It’s a great apartment and all, really nice but,” She looks around, shrugging her shoulders, “If I’m going to be out here longer than just this year I want to bring my dogs up, which this complex doesn’t allow, so when my lease is up I think I’m gonna find a new one.”

 

“Okay well,” Tobin leans back in her chair, relieving the hunch of her shoulders, “Let me know how I can help, alright? I can come look with you or help you move, whatever you need.”

 

Christen squeezes their clasped hands, “Thanks.”

 

“Love you,” Tobin puckers her lips, waiting for Christen’s response.

 

“I love you too,” Instead of just Christen’s lips flushing against hers, she feels her sit down on her lap, wrap her arms around her neck, and finally press a kiss to her lips.

 

-

 

Tobin is excited the morning of the playoff game, she wakes up well rested, relaxed, and confident. Christen is next to her, a hand playing with her hair in the way that makes her want to stay up late at night listening to the rain hit her window while she laughs in bed with Christen, a bottle of beer on her nightstand and a glass of red wine on Christen’s. She knows that can wait for later that night.

 

The game is mid afternoon and the locker room is ‘lit’ as Emily described it when she entered, probably a few minutes later than most of the team as usual. The pep talks are great, she can hear the roar of the stadium in the locker room after warm up and before walking out, and she’s more than ready to get out there, win, and book tickets for her family and Christen to go to Houston.

 

There’s not a single person on the team whose head isn’t in the game, isn’t more than one hundred percent dedicated to this game. Her national team teammates are looking for redemption after their disappointing Olympics exit, Sinc is looking to redeem herself from Canada’s semi-final Olympic loss for the second time in a row, Amandine who’s never lost a club championship but has never won an international competition even though her team probably is consistently one of the best in the world, Nadia and Dagny who will probably never be able to compete in the Olympics but deserve to, and all the women who aren’t on a national team but were the backbone of the league while they were all gone.

 

The 2-0 lead doesn’t reflect their team in the way that it should but Sinc’s quick return goal and Emily’s wonder goal off of her own free kick show that they don’t give up, just like Lindsey’s goal in their second extra time half after they’d gone down by two yet again. It doesn’t work though.

 

She sits on the ground, accepts her roses for her assist, and tries to keep from sobbing on the field, because really there’s no other emotion that she can feel but the overwhelming heartbreak.

 

There isn’t really a time where she could say her personal life fixed her soccer life, normally it’s vice versa. She could always just turn back around and dig herself into soccer and everything would always be okay. Now though, with no major tournament in sight, she’s glad that she’s got something, or rather someone, to catch her when she falls.

 

The moment she sees Christen is the moment she knows that she can’t hold it together anymore, that she doesn’t need to hold it together anymore.

 

“Oh my God,” She crashes into Christen, changed, damp from the shower, and a little numb from their coaches recap, “Tobin, sweetheart, I love you, so much.”

 

Tears stream down onto Christen’s jacket but she can’t make words form because of the burning sensation in her throat so she just nods, hoping that Christen understands her response.

 

As Christen brings her hands up to tangle in her hair, she thinks about her thoughts from the morning, thinking that she’ll definitely be needing that beer or a glass of wine tonight.

 

Tobin is the type of person who finds comfort in physical touch, not in the way that she thinks that sex will help her get over the emotions that she feels but in the way that when she’s sad or happy the thing that will elevate her mood is a hug, a hand on her knee, or someone playing with her hair. She thinks that this is the reason why she always wants to be the big spoon or that she is always the first person to offer a hug when someone else is crying, so for some reason she thinks that Christen might be the same way as her because she does the same thing that she did after the Olympics, curls up behind her, wraps an arm around her waist, and presses soft kisses against her shoulder every once in awhile.

 

“Tobs,” Christen’s voice breaks the silence that had filled the room since they had climbed into bed after dinner, “You know, I’m really proud of you. This year hasn’t been easy on you but you’ve handled it really well.”

 

Tobin feels like she’s almost choked on the snot that’s collected in her nose from her day of crying when she laughs at the end of Christen’s statement, “No I haven’t.”

 

“Oh Tobin,” Christen sighs and she can feel her moving to rest her head on her elbow, leaning halfway over Tobin to kiss her on the cheek, “You have, when we first met, I don’t even know how to explain it. It was like you just needed somebody to escape to, it’s hard to explain, it’s like you just needed somebody who didn’t know anything about you so that you could get away. Like you were running. I was really worried after the Olympics, but look how you turned everything around. I know this is just one more kick in the butt from 2016 but you’ll be fine, it’ll be okay.”

 

Tobin traces the fingers resting on her stomach for a few moments, “The common denominator is you Chris.”

 

“Tobin,” Christen kisses the back of her neck softly, Tobin’s hair getting stuck in her lips so she blows softly so that she doesn’t have to move either of her arms from Tobin’s body, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

 

She lifts Christen’s hand to her lips, kissing the back of her hand softly, “You’re there, you’re always just there to pick things up, put me together. It’s like you know just what to say to make me feel better. I don’t know how, or why, you do it. But you do, and it’s crazy.”

 

“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” Christen’s voice gets quieter, turns to a whisper, “It’s all you, anything extra that I can do to help, it’s cause I love you.”

 

“I’m glad that you’re staying here next year Chris,” Tobin matches her pitch, her words coming out in a soft whisper, “I can’t believe it’s only been a few months because I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

 

“Ya know,” Christen smiles into her shoulder as she presses another kiss down, “I have this strange feeling that as long as you’re here, I’ll be here.”

 

-

 

The next morning Christen gets up for work like usual, snoozes her alarm the moment it rings so that she can let Tobin sleep in, slides out of bed and runs to turn the shower on in hopes that the water will by hot by the time she finishes brushing her teeth, which she knows isn’t very Portland of her but she can’t help it if the impending fall is getting colder by the day and her brittle California skin can’t tolerate the changing temperatures.

 

Tobin smiles at the frown she shoots over when she exits the bathroom, curly hair tied tight in a bun on top of her head and Tobin’s oversized shirt probably not grazing past the bottom of her butt, in search of a clean sports bra and some athleisure wear for the few hours she’s planning on spending in her office today.

 

“You’re up,” Christen states as if she’s a bit disappointed, probably because she thinks that Tobin is exhausted and should be sleeping later than 6:30 after her restlessness the night before.

 

“Yeah,” Tobin nods, her journal propped up on her knees, back resting on a stack of pillows behind her neck, “I’m hungry, breakfast and coffee?”

 

“Of course you are,” Christen shakes her head slightly as she pulls a Nike crewneck from one of Tobin’s dresser drawers, “Sure, I just need to get to the studio by 7:30, first class is at 8.”

 

“Perfect,” She stretches her arms above her head, clasping her hands together and leaning sideways before stepping out of bed, cringing as her feet touch the cold hardwood floors, “I’ll brush my teeth and we’ll go.”

 

“And change!” Christen hollers at her as she starts running the water in the sink.

 

“Waddya saw?” She sticks her head out the bathroom door, toothbrush hanging in her mouth.

 

“I said,” Christen states forcefully, “And you need to change. You can’t just keep leaving the apartment in what you slept in.”

 

Tobin just turns back into the bathroom after she hears Christen’s statement. It’s a recurring ‘topic of discussion’ they’d had a few times. Tobin thinks that she’s especially susceptible to cold, particularly at night, so when she goes to bed she always layers in some combination of sweatshirt, long sleeve, sweatpants, leggings, anything that covers her from neck to ankle really isn’t off limits. That’s the first part of the issue, Christen, despite refusing to wear anything more than a tank top or t-shirt and a pair of panties, always complains that Tobin’s koala bear like cuddling tendencies warm her to unbearable temperatures in the night, causing her to shrug the comforter off, thus unbalancing Tobin’s internal thermostat and causing her great distress. The other part is that Christen hates when Tobin simply rolls out of bed, brushes her teeth, and leaves in the exact same clothes she’d worn to bed when she’s got practically the whole Nike factory in her dresser. Tobin thinks it’s the reasonable thing to do, especially if she doesn’t smell and is going to have to change into team issued apparel an hour after they usually grab coffee. Christen always retaliates by saying that she doesn’t seem to have any issues with being cold when sleeping isn’t the only bedroom activity on their itinerary for the night. That usually shuts Tobin up.

 

“Only for you,” Tobin winks as she shrugs out of a long sleeve shirt she’d gotten at a tourist shop somewhere with her brother.

 

She tugs Christen out the door, down the hall, and through the parking garage, deciding to drive rather than walk in this mess of rain. Also maybe a little bit to maximize her time with Christen so she doesn’t have to leave early to walk the opposite direction of her apartment to get to the studio in time.

 

Christen holds the door to Case Study open for her as she knocks her hood off her head once they’re relieved by the warm welcome of the shop’s busiest time of day. She also states that it’s on her this morning so Tobin brings her hand up to the base of Christen’s neck and bends around her head to kiss her cheek in thanks as she stands closely behind her in line.

 

When Tobin arrives to the table that Christen nabbed, she’s flicking through the front pages of the newspaper that someone had probably left at the table before them. The coffee is hot, burning her tongue when she’s overeager but warms her hands.

 

-

 

Tobin plops down on a sofa and tries to avoid the glare that Christen is sending her while she chats with the landlord of the third apartment they’ve seen today. That doesn’t include the other six she’s seen over the past two weeks. Each one seemed to have some horrible attribute to it that ruled it out, too small, no pets allowed, ugly wall colors, the list goes on. Christen’s picky and she wasn’t going to seemingly settle for an apartment.

 

There’d only really been one serious contender so far, but Christen had decided to rule that one out too since it was a twenty minute drive from work (and Tobin) which was out of the picture since her current apartment was a ten minute walk to the studio and a quick bike ride to Tobin’s apartment when it wasn’t raining. So here they are again, back at square one.

 

Christen chats politely with the landlord as she glances around the other people mingling about and looking at the apartment. Everyone looks happy, it’s a great apartment really, and talking excitedly. However there’s this look on Christen’s face, like she’s forcing herself to smile as she nods while listening to something about HOA fees or something. When she looks around the apartment herself, she’s not sure exactly why. There’s hardwood floors, granite countertops, neutral white walls, a large living room, a patio, which covers most of Christen’s wish list.

 

She approaches Tobin, holding a hand out to pull her up from the couch, “What’s wrong?”

 

Christen shrugs in response, squeezing Tobin’s hand gently and sighing, “I don’t know, I really thought I’d like this one.”

 

“Me too,” Tobin releases her hand, only to wrap an arm around her back a moment later, “It has everything you want.”

 

“I know,” Christen takes one last glance over her shoulder, waving at the real estate agent showing the apartment as they walk out the door. When they step out into the hallway and are waiting for the elevator she glances up at Tobin again before nudging her head down onto Tobin’s shoulder, “It just doesn’t feel like I could make it home, you know?”

 

“Mmhmm,” Tobin mumbles in agreement, even though she honestly thought Christen could have made it work.

 

-

 

Allie’s wedding is about a week after their last unsuccessful apartment endeavor. Christen boards a plane with Tobin to Florida, she’s exhausted because they’d stayed up late the night before packing and she’d still gotten up to make her eight am cycling class before they left for the airport. Tobin smiles down at her as she lifts up the seat divider and presses her head into her, nodding off before they even take off. The rule is that Tobin can have the window seat if Christen can lay on her.

 

The flight is certainly longer than Tobin cares for but they make decent timing, landing early enough that they can get to Tobin’s mom’s place for the night before they drive their rental to the hotel for Allie’s rehearsal dinner the next day.

 

It’s strikingly different without her siblings there, just her and Christen with her mom and her boyfriend for dinner. It’s quiet, no babies screaming and nobody teasing her or egging her on to probably do something that would turn out to be dumb or embarrassing. Her mom focuses more on learning about Christen, rather than just talking to her or letting her sisters and brother do all the work.

 

The drive to the rehearsal dinner is just about as long as the flight took them but Tobin is enjoying this time with Christen, it’s the first time they’ve ever been on anything resembling a road trip and she tucks that idea in the back of her brain for the rest of the offseason.

 

They run into Allie in the hotel lobby, she’s heading out to Alex’s to go stuff favors and lets them know they’re free to come over and watch if they want. Tobin laughs and promises she’ll come over and help after they check in, unpack, and steam their dresses for the rehearsal dinner tonight.

 

Christen ties her hair up when she pulls out her travel steamer, letting Tobin get to work on the rest of the unpacking. There isn’t much but Tobin hangs Christen’s dress up in the closet and flops on the bed after sliding their toiletry bags on the bathroom counter.

 

Tobin grabs the remote to flip the television on but instead of finding her eyes on HGTV they drift over to Christen’s backside as she squats down to hit the bottom of one of the black dresses. She can see the way that Christen’s back flexes slightly as she moves her arms up and down through the low cut on the back of her pink sweater. She reaches up to rest the steamer on the table, flipping the switch off, and glances back at Tobin.

 

She chuckles softly at the look Tobin is giving her, “What?”

 

“Nothing,” Tobin holds her hands up in innocence as Christen slides onto the bed next to her, reaching out and resting a hand on Tobin’s upper thigh, “You’re pretty hot when you’re all sweaty.”

 

Christen pinches her leg before removing her hand and standing up, “I am not sweaty.”

 

“Just a little,” Tobin holds her fingers really close together as Christen walks to the mirror to check her reflection, sure enough the heat of the steam had done wonders to her forehead and it glistens a little in the poor lighting. She digs through her makeup bag, pulling out some powder to touch up her T-zone.

 

“We going to Alex’s?” She adds as she touches up her eyeliner too.

 

“If you want,” Tobin shrugs, glancing at her phone for time. It’s nearing one since they’d gotten an early start and Alex would probably have some sort of food for them if they wanted lunch, “I can ask if she’s made anything for lunch?”

 

“Okay,” Christen kneels back onto the edge of the bed resting her hand on Tobin’s shin and squeezing at the muscles gently, “I wanna see how nice Alex’s house is.”

Tobin smirks up at her cheekily from where she’s texting on her phone, “It is pretty nice.”

 

The drive to Alex’s is short, through a gated community not that dissimilar from her mother’s. Alex has promised them a chicken salad and chips with guac which is enough to appeal to both her and Christen’s senses. Alex greets them politely at the door, a little too politely for best friends but then she realizes that unlike Allie, Alex has barely met Christen and this is the first time welcoming her to their house. She greets both of them with short hugs, Christen’s just a little shorter than her own and welcomes them in, apologizing for the maze that is Allie’s wedding favors.

 

“Tobin, Christen, you came!” Allie stands up from the back of Alex’s living room, putting down some boxes she was folding on the ground before tiptoeing around everything to smother them in hugs.

 

“Of course,” Christen laughs as Allie squeezes her tightly before releasing her for Tobin.

 

“What kind of maid of honor would I be if I didn’t help with something?” Tobin confirms, glancing over her shoulder to offer a wave back to Servando and Bati in the corner, “Chris have you met Serv yet?”

 

“No, actually,” Christen accepts the hand that she offers out for her so she doesn’t fall around the boxes to go greet the guys and grab some salad, “I haven’t.”

 

Tobin takes her time to introduce the two before she seats herself on the ground with some chips and guac, Christen asks how she can help and even though Alex and Allie refuse she’s a bit stubborn and winds up helping with stuffing some of the boxes after Tobin unfolds them.

 

-

 

Tobin’s not sure if she’s ever been watched so intently as she is the night of Allie’s wedding. Every time she looks up, when she’s holding her bouquet near the altar, taking pictures with her teammates, giving her speech, dancing, wherever she is when she looks up, Christen is there and sending a wink in her direction.

 

“You okay?” Tobin whispers into Christen’s ear during a slow dance, she’s got one arm wrapped around her waist, Christen’s hand on her shoulder, and her other hand clasped with Christen’s.

 

Christen laughs slightly in her ear, pushes some curled hair off her shoulder, and squeezes her hand a little tighter, “Yeah, just can’t keep my eyes off you.”

 

-

 

Christen is pushing Tobin against the door of their hotel room while she’s looking for her room key. Her lips are eager as Tobin fumbles through the clutch she’d thrown some of her stuff in for Christen to hold during the wedding. It’s probably a bit of Tobin’s own fault that Christen is so worked up, she’d not done much else on the taxi ride back to the hotel but play with the edges of the slit in Christen’s dress and steal a few kisses off the side of her neck where her hair was brushed away.

 

When Tobin gets the key out and hands it to Christen to open the door behind her, she nearly falls through at the loss of gravity from behind her back, Christen’s got her arm wrapped around her back though and it keeps her steady enough. Both pairs of their shoes hit the ground quickly but Christen is eager and pushes her back to the bed quickly, her hands roaming up the lace covering Tobin’s torso.

 

“How do I get this off?” She husks into Tobin’s ear as her thumbs rub circles on the skin exposed between the top of her skirt and the bottom of her lace top.

 

“Buttons,” Tobin mumbles as Christen’s lips descend on hers for a moment, she leans up a little so that Christen can have better access to her back but breaking the kiss moments later, “On the back.”

 

Tobin’s resting on her elbows but the angle is difficult for Christen so she moves to sit up for better access. Christen relishes in the shift, humming against her lips now that she’s able to multi task. The top is pulled off quickly, leaving her in her long skirt and nude bra. Christen pauses for a minute, pulling back from the kiss that Tobin had been desperate for and leaves her whimpering in the dust. Christen taps her hip and nods her head, asking for Tobin to move further back on the bed and as she settles, finds the zipper on the side of Tobin’s skirt and pulls it off, tugging her thong with in the process.

 

She slides back up, straddles Tobin before she moves back down to kiss her from her lips and downwards from there on out.

 

-

 

The next morning Tobin wakes cold, stuffy, and disoriented in their hotel room. Their bed is small, definitely not the true size of a queen bed, so Christen is lying on her stomach with her hip pressed into Tobin’s waist and their legs aligned down the rest of their bodies. Normally Christen was the first to wake but the late night and time change is probably kicking in and keeping her asleep, so Tobin decides to slide out of bed and take care of her physical state.

 

The hotel that Allie had set them up to stay at was nice enough that they had robes so Tobin slipped one on before heading to the bathroom to check out her state of being. Her eye makeup is smeared, a swirl of eyeliner, mascara, and eyeshadow matted everywhere above and below her eye sockets, her hair is a disaster, curls matted and rogue bobby pins are hanging in strands around her face. She cringes at the state of her leftover hair as she finishes pulling the bobby pins out and reaches for Christen’s makeup remover. The water of the shower feels hot on her skin and she concludes that once she gets her coffee in her that she’ll feel like a new person.

 

When she emerges, letting the steam out of the bathroom on her way, Christen is sitting up in bed with sheets tucked under her arms and the local news station on. “Morning,” She states and puckers her lips in Tobin’s direction until she comes over to peck her lips, “Wanna go grab coffee and breakfast after I shower?”

 

“Yes,” Tobin agrees with her towel wrapped around her body still as she retreats to find some clothes, “Please.”

 

Tobin sneaks a peak over her shoulder and laughs as Christen tip-toe runs into the bathroom as the cold hits her skin, grabbing a towel and hastily wrapping it around her body before slipping into the bathroom. When she returns, she also looks like a new person, her skin clean and hair falling in wet curls on her neck. After she changes and puts a coat of mascara on, she dabs some product in her fingers and scrunches her hair a little, not even attempting to fight the Florida humidity. Tobin’s blow dried her hair halfway, enough so she wouldn’t get water stains on her t-shirt.

 

They agree to just go find a Starbucks, their lack of morning energy discouraging them from taking the time to google somewhere else to go. It’s near their hotel which is satisfying and Tobin doesn’t think she realized exactly how hungry she was until she’s got half a bagel in her mouth. Christen’s up putting creamer in her coffee but had given Tobin her phone and wallet to take back with her, her phone buzzes loudly against the table with a notification. Tobin sighs when she sees that it’s an email notification from some apartment hunting website that Christen had signed up for to let her know when new listings got put up.

 

Tobin slides the phone across the table to Christen when she sits down, “New apartment listing.”

 

“Did you look at it?” Christen asks eagerly, sliding it open, “Does it look nice?” Tobin shrugs because she has no clue and watches as Christen sighs and quickly shuts her phone off again, explaining, “Wrong location, doesn’t allow dogs. I ranked those as my top two requirements so I don’t understand why I keep getting emails for places like that.”

 

“You know,” Tobin states as she spreads some cream cheese over the other half of her bagel, “They allow dogs in my apartment complex.”

 

Christen laughs for a minute before she looks contemplative when Tobin glances up at her response, “Are you saying I should move into your apartment complex?”

 

Likewise, Tobin laughs at Christen’s response, “No Chris, I mean technically yeah, but have you ever thought of just moving into my apartment?”

 

“I-” Christen stammers a little over her words, “It’s not that I wouldn’t want to, obviously, it’s just that isn’t that a little fast? We haven’t even really known each other a year yet.”

 

Tobin shrugs because the response is not that shocking to her, Christen obviously hadn’t thought of it before which doesn’t surprise her considering how many apartments they’d seen yet she hasn’t given up on searching, “I know, it’s just the other day when we were out looking at that apartment that was, like, perfect on paper but you didn’t love, I was thinking that I could probably count on two hands the amount of nights we haven’t spent together while we were both in Portland. It might be fast and that’s fine if you want to keep looking but I just thought I’d put the offer out there.”

 

Christen reaches her hand out across the table and squeezes her right hand before she starts to play with her ring, “I’ll think about it, I just hadn’t considered it, but you’re right we do spend every night together anyways.”

 

“Don’t think too hard,” Tobin smiles reassuringly at her, “If now’s not the right time, that’s fine and I completely understand.”

 

“Okay,” Christen smiles back at her, “Love you.”

 

“Love you too.”

 

-

 

Tobin is pretty restless between Thanksgiving and leaving for Europe. Christen is back home from visiting her family in North Carolina and she’s done with soccer for the rest of the year so without any games in sight her time is mostly free for a change. There’s a whole big game plan for Europe, London for a week with Christen’s family, Spain so that Christen can show Tobin around where she studied in college and Tobin can coincidentally go to El Classico, and a final stop in Sweden for kicks and giggles.

 

When Tobin wakes up in their hotel room in London after their first night she feels refreshed. She’d stayed up the rest of the day after they’d landed and gotten a full night's sleep to try and combat jet lag. Christen seemed like she’d been just as tired as her when she fell asleep so she assumes that the curly haired woman next to her had gotten a similar amount of sleep. The whole family had turned in after coming home from dinner and drinks which had just about set everyone over the edge.

 

The first half of their day is spent walking around mostly, they grab some Oyster cards and take the tube as necessary. Mostly they just take the time to look at different tourist attractions near the Thames. It’s actually nice to take some time to enjoy the city since she’d been quite a few times between the Olympics and playing in the champion’s league but she’d mostly been focused on soccer and squeezing in a limited amount of tourist attractions.

 

Just after lunchtime, Christen’s parents split off from them to get to a mic rehearsal for Cody’s event and subsequently the siblings decide to split up after some people state their desires for a nap. Tobin agrees to staying out with Christen so they bid everyone else farewell at the tube stop.

 

Christen holds her close as they explore, keeping their bodies close to share body heat.

 

-

 

When they’re back home and enjoying some relative peace in between workouts and Christmas shopping, Tobin finds herself decorating her apartment with new additions of Christmas decor just about every time she steps out for some shopping.

 

It’d started with a small and modest fake Christmas tree for the corner of her living room, then it was stockings, which snowballed into some Christmas lights for the mantle of her fireplace and from then on it all just went downhill. Christen had caught the Christmas fever as well and would occasionally bring home little decorations like the JOY sign sitting in the middle of her counter and the matching Christmas pajamas they now had in her dresser drawers.

 

Tobin is sitting on the floor of her apartment, wrapping paper and ribbon surrounding her while Christen gets some work done on her laptop. She’s been pretty quiet for the late afternoon, probably sending off emails to people or something that’s over Tobin’s head when it comes to businesses.

 

She’s so in the zone that she misses what Christen’s voice says when it cuts through the Christmas music in the background.

 

“Huh?” Tobin bites her lip as she presses some tape onto a book that she’s wrapping for her sister, “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

 

When she looks up Christen is hunched over her laptop still, scrolling through something, “I was just asking if you’ve ever seen one of the two bedrooms here?”

 

“No, why?” Tobin asks confused, Christen’s apartment search hadn’t found its endpoint yet but it wasn’t really concerning Tobin that much since her lease didn’t end until March anyway.

 

“I just think,” She pauses again, like she does when she’s trying to concentrate on something but Tobin is distracting or pestering her, “If I’m going to move in here with my dogs that we might need some more room.”

 

“Really?” Tobin asks, trying to keep her excitement at bay. There’d been a little touch and go about the moving situation but nothing concrete since they’d originally talked in Orlando, “You think you want to move in here, with me?”

 

“Well I’m not going to move into one of the two bedrooms by myself,” Christen smiles at her, she looks excited, “But we should go look at one first. I was thinking it might be nice to have the dogs sleep in a second bedroom, we can always have them sleep out here if anyone ever comes to visit us.”

 

“You’re sure,” Tobin pushes herself up off the floor and walks to the couch, Christen’s got the apartment complex’s website pulled up on her laptop and was looking at the floorplan of one of the larger apartments. Gently, Tobin pushes Christen’s laptop closed and puts it on the coffee table, “You’re not just doing this because you can’t find exactly the apartment you want or because I want you to?”

 

“Tobs,” Christen reaches up to grab her hand, tugging at it so she falls on the couch next to her, “Of course not, you know me, you know I wouldn’t be saying this if I hadn’t thought about it or if I didn’t really want it.”

 

“Okay so,” Tobin loops one hand through Christen’s before resting the other on top of it, “I’ll call the leasing office? We can try and go walk through a two bedroom?”


“Sounds great,” Christen agrees, leaning over to give Tobin a kiss.